(FOX 9) - Minnesota now has a total of 1,621 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state and 70 deaths attributed to the virus. However, health officials say that number is still an undercount due to lack of widespread testing.
More than 800 of the cases have recovered and no longer need to be isolated. To date, 37,421 people have been tested for the virus.
A total of 361 COVID-19 cases have been hospitalized in Minnesota to date. Currently 157 cases are hospitalized, with 74 in intensive care. The age range for coronavirus patients in the ICU is 25-95 years old.
Health officials say the virus is likely circulating in every Minnesota community, whether a county has a confirmed case or not.
MDH data shows 35 percent of the cases are the result of community transmission. Community transmission cases occur when the individual who tested positive did not travel or have any known contact with someone with COVID-19.
As the case total rises, the pressure is on to keep health care workers safe amid a shortage of personal protective equipment.
"If the peak would hit us now, we’d not be prepared," Gov. Walz said of PPE in Minnesota hospitals. "I’ve lit the fuse under everybody I can."
First responders and health care workers have been granted easier access to workers’ compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19 on the job. The governor signed legislation Wednesday which designates the coronavirus as a workplace illness for firefighters, EMTs, police officers, health care workers and some child care providers.
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MDH confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Minnesota on March 6. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic.
To slow the spread of COVID-19 and give the state health care system more time to prepare, Gov. Walz has extended the stay-at-home order until May 4.
Bars, restaurants, salons, fitness centers, theaters, museums and other businesses will remain closed until that date as will schools. Students will participate in distance learning until schools reopen.
The governor’s stay-at-home order has been in effect since March 27.
Walz has expanded unemployment benefits to employees impacted by the closures resulting from the pandemic. Since the governor first ordered businesses to close on March 16, more than 360,000 Minnesotans have filed for unemployment.
MDH has three hotlines for questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hotline for health questions is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The number to call is 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903.
The hotline for community mitigation (schools, childcare, business) questions is also open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The number to call is 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504.
The hotline for housing questions is 651-296-8215 for single-family residences and 651-297-4455 for multi-family residences. The hotline is staff Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The state has also launched a helpline for people to report incidents of bias or discrimination resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. The number to call is 1-833-454-0148. Translation and interpretation services are available.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE SICK
MDH says if you have symptoms of a respiratory disease (such as fever, coughing, muscle aches, sore threat and headache) you should stay home for at least seven days and at least three days with without a fever (without fever-reducing medicine).
If you have symptoms and can manage those symptoms at home, MDH said you do not have to seek health care or be tested for COVID-19. Just stay home if you are sick. If your symptoms worsen, if possible, call ahead before going into your health care provider.
"People do not need to be tested for COVID-19 if they're in a situation where they'd be able to manage their symptoms at home; since there is no treatment for mild cases, there is no clinical decision that would be made based on the test result," MDH Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann said.
MDH has restricted the criteria to test for COVID-19 due to a limited supply of testing materials. They are giving priority to hospitalized patients as well as ill health care workers and ill persons living in congregate living settings such as long-term care. The new restrictions on testing will remain in place indefinitely until more tests are provided to Minnesota.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza is spread. It can also spread when people touch surfaces that have been contaminated by an infected person and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, patients with confirmed COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some patients have had other symptoms including muscle aches, headache, sore throat or diarrhea.
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
The CDC and MDH recommend Minnesotans do the following to protect themselves and others and limit the spread of COVID-19:
- Stay home and away from others if you are sick
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
- Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water
- Avoid touching your face throughout the day
- Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. The CDC recommends staying a minimum of 6 feet away
The CDC also recomends all people wear some type of face mask while out in public.