Gov. Walz: Minnesota's long-term care facilities making progress, but 'still more work to do'

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced Tuesday that the state has made progress in its COVID-19 response plan for long-term living facilities but said there's "still more work to do."

Officials said that while residents of long-term care facilities still make up a majority of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota, data shows that efforts to identify and contain the spread of COVID-19 in various congregate care settings have been successful. The state announced its five-point plan back in May.

“With an aggressive multi-pronged strategy, this battle plan is helping ensure Minnesota’s long-term care facilities are more resilient and better prepared to contain the spread of COVID-19,” Governor Walz said. “We’ve made progress, but there’s still more work to do. Together with our partners in congregate care settings, we must continue to take action to protect our most vulnerable Minnesotans as this pandemic continues.” 

So far, officials say the state has implemented the following parts of the five-point plan: 

  • Developed testing criteria and a process for facilities to request testing services, making it possible to expand testing for residents and workers in long-term care facilities.
  • Implemented a Nurse Triage Line to provide test results and information on COVID-19 and streamlined the billing process for using the state’s testing partnership, to provide testing support and troubleshooting to clear barriers faster.
  • Developed a system for prioritizing and disbursing personal protective equipment (PPE) to facilities, including an emergency supply and response system, to ensure these materials are available when needed. 
  • Utilized a scheduling software system to connect facilities with staffing needs to available staff, as well as develop triggers and a notification system for when a facility needs additional staffing. In June, 112 shifts were filled through this system, representing 36 percent of available shifts. There are more than 1,100 qualified healthcare professionals signed up in the database.
  • Leveraged partnerships at all levels, including state and federal agencies, as well as long-term care associations and regional healthcare coalitions to improve long-term care testing, staffing, PPE distribution, and patient surge capacity and discharge.

Officials said that as of July 21, half of Minnesota's 368 nursing homes have never had a reported case, and only 24% of Minnesota nursing homes currently have an active outbreak.

Of Minnesota's 1,692 assisted living facilities, 77% have never had a reported case, and only 8% currently have an acive outbreak.

Additionally, of the total 1,165 outbreak facilities, 714 or 61% have had 1-2 cases to date. Of these, 538 or 75% have had no COVID-19 cases for 28 days. As for the 95 facilities with larger outbreaks of 20 or more cases, 51 or 54% percent have been free of COVID-19 cases for 28 days.