(FOX 9) - Minnesota reported 30 new deaths attributed to COVID-19 Wednesday--a new daily high--as the state's death toll from the disease rises to 485.
Twenty-three of the 30 deaths were residents of long-term care or assisted living facilites. Out of the 485 deaths Minnesota has reported so far, 391 patients who resided in long-term care or assisted living facilities.
The Minnesota Department of Health reported 5,223 completed tests and 728 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday--both new single-day highs--although at Tuesday's press briefing, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said there was a lag in Tuesday's report that would be corrected on Wednesday.
There have now been 8,579 positive cases of the coronavirus in the state to date.
Nearly 53 percent of patients confirmed to have COVID-19 have now recovered and no longer need to self-isolate.
After four straight days of double-digit increases, the number of COVID-19 cases in the intensive care unit declines slightly Wednesday. There are currently 180 cases in the ICU, down from 182 on Tuesday. A total of 443 patients are currently hospitalized, including those in the ICU. The youngest COVID-19 patient in the ICU is a less than one-month-old infant. More than 16 percent of Minnesota's COVID-19 cases have required hospitalization.
The ages of Minnesota COVID-19 patients ranges from less than a month old to 109 years old. The median age of the Minnesotans who have died from COVID-19 is 83. The age range for the state's deaths is 30 to 109 years old.
At least 15 percent of Minnesota's COVID-19 cases are in long-term care facilities or assisted living facilities. Officials have now begun identifying congregate living facilities that have seen COVID-19 cases.
Eighty-two of Minnesota's 87 counties now have confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 11 counties reporting more than 100 cases. Health officials say the virus is likely circulating in every Minnesota community, whether a county has a confirmed case or not.
Nobles County now has 1,082 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among its approximately 22,000 residents, the second highest number of cases of any county in the state. Nobles County has the 45th largest population of Minnesota's 87 counties. MDH has focused testing in that area after an outbreak at the JBS pork plant in Worthington.
Stearns County saw a triple-digit increase in the number of confirmed cases Wednesday, likely because of increased testing after an outbreak there. It now has 975 confirmed cases, third-most in the state.
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.
MINORITIES DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTED BY COVID-19
Health officials are worried about the access to care for people of color as well as how they are treated by health care workers as COVID-19 cases increase in Minnesota.
Recent data shows white Minnesotans make up about 84 percent of the state’s population, but they only represent 37 percent of cases. Black Minnesotans now make up 16 percent of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases. According to MDH data, in 32 percent of cases the patient's race is listed as "unknown/missing"
While minorities represent a disproportionate number of coronavirus cases in Minnesota, the death rates for those groups are not as high. Black Minnesotans account for about five percent of deaths attributed to the virus, while white Minnesotans represent 69 percent.
Lack of access to health care, unfair treatment by health care workers and underlying health conditions are some of the major reasons behind the disparities, according to health care professionals.
HEALTH CARE WORKERS CONTINUE PLEA FOR MORE PPE
Of Minnesota’s COVID-19 cases, at least 1,146 are health care workers, although health officials note that health care workers are a priority when it comes to testing.
As the overall number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, health care workers are expressing concerns about the ongoing shortage of personal protective equipment, such as N95 masks.
At some hospitals, health care workers are being asked to reuse PPE like N95 masks, when they would usually use one per patient. For example, M Health Fairview said it is giving each front line worker five N95 respirators to rotate over 10 days, with the hope of using each one twice. They also started using ultraviolet radiation to decontaminate those masks daily so they can be used up to six times.
First responders and health care workers have been granted easier access to workers’ compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19 on the job. Gov. Walz signed legislation earlier this month which designates the coronavirus as a workplace illness for firefighters, EMTs, police officers, health care workers and some child care providers.
MINNESOTANS ORDERED TO STAY HOME
To slow the spread of COVID-19 and continue to give the state health care system more time to prepare, Gov. Walz has extended the peacetime emergency through May 13.
Since declaring the peacetime emergency on March 13, Walz has used sweeping powers under the emergency declaration to force thousands of businesses and schools to close, activate the National Guard and halt evictions.
The governor’s stay-at-home order has also been extended until May 18, although it includes a handful of new exemptions that allows some people to go back to work.
Walz has expanded unemployment benefits to employees impacted by the closures resulting from the pandemic. Since mid-March, more than about 540,000 Minnesotans have filed for unemployment, although the trend appears to be slowing.
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
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
It can also spread when people touch surfaces that have been contaminated by an infected person and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.
Some recent studies have also suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscles aches, headache, sore throat or diarrhea. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and you can manage them at home, MDH says you do not need to go to the doctor or get tested. Instead, you should do the following:
- Stay home
- Wash your hands often
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Avoid sharing personal household items like dishes, towels, bedding, etc.
- Clean surfaces you touch often
If your symptoms worsen or you notice any of the emergency warning signs (trouble breathing, ongoing pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or not being able to wake up, bluish lips or face), call your health can provider right away.
People are advised to call their doctor or clinic before going in, if possible. They will give you instructions to help protect you and other patients.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM COVID-19
The CDC and MDH recommend Minnesotans do the following to protect themselves and their loved ones and limit the spread of COVID-19:
- Stay home and avoid gatherings with people outside of your household
- Keep 6 feet of space between yourself and other people when you do go out
- Wash your hands often
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Clean surfaces that you touch often
The CDC is now recommending people wear face masks in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain such as grocery stores and pharmacies as well as in areas that are seeing significant community transmission of the virus.
Wearing a mask can not only prevent you from getting sick, but also helps people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.