Coronavirus Daily Briefing: State looks at alternate care facilities, cancels standardized testing

Updated: March 31, 2020 06:07 PM
Created: March 31, 2020 11:30 AM

During Gov. Tim Walz's daily media briefing on COVID-19, the state's Homeland Security and Emergency Management director said the state is looking at potential alternate care facilities that can be used to treat patients who have contracted the virus.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly said a planning team has conducted the assessment of seven facilities and has validated five as potential alternate care facilities. The facilities would be used for non-critical patients.


The state hopes to identify spaces that can accommodate 2,750 beds, with 1,000 beds in the metro and 250 in each of seven regions around the state. Kelly said the state will implement the use of facilities when and where they are needed.

Kelly said the hope is that additional hospital beds will be adequate and that other sites will not be needed.

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"I hope that we never need any of the alternate care sites we're working on, much less all of them at the same time," he said.

In regards to testing for COVID-19 in the state, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm said there are currently no backlogs in testing. However, there still remains a shortage in supplies for testing.

Malcolm also said it was learned that when testing residents of congregate living facilites, some hospitals were prioritizing residents of nursing homes only. The commissioner reiterated that all residents living in any kind of congregate living setting need to receive priority for testing. Malcolm also said workers in congregate living facilities need to be prioritized for testing.

Congregate care facilities have been hit hard by COVID-19 in Minnesota and the number of cases in facilities continuing to rise. As of Tuesday, Malcolm and MDH Director of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology Kris Ehresmann said 39 congregate care facilities reported COVID-19 cases with 33 cases involving residents and another 19 involving health care workers. They added that a few cases had been linked to contact between health care workers and residents, resident-to-resident or worker-to-worker, but the majority have been the usual community spread or travel-related.

With the second day of distance learning underway, Minnesota Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Heather Mueller thanked parents who are working with students at home.

Mueller also announced the state's standardized test, the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, has been canceled due to the outbreak. Officials had said earlier this month that they'd asked federal officials to allow them to cancel the testing and received permission Tuesday.

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove said the department has received a total number 255,371 applications for unemployment insurance since March 16. Grove did say that applications were down 25 percent Monday.

As of Tuesday, MDH reported 629 total COVID-19 cases in Minnesota with 12 deaths. That's out of 19,780 samples tested. Of the total, 112 cases have required hospitalization and 56 remained hospitalized Tuesday, with 26 in the ICU. MDH reported 288 patients no longer need to be isolated.

According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the virus has infected about 803,650 people worldwide and killed about 39,014. More than 172,772 people have recovered so far.

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