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COVID-19 briefing: MDH encourages getting flu shot amid pandemic, addresses patient data privacy

COVID-19 briefing: MDH encourages getting flu shot amid pandemic, addresses patient data privacy Photo: KSTP-TV.

Rebecca Omastiak
Updated: September 30, 2020 03:29 PM
Created: September 30, 2020 03:10 PM

Wednesday, MDH Director of Infectious Disease and Epidemiology Kris Ehresmann addressed COVID-19 and influenza, scams directed at bars and restaurants and patient data privacy, among other virus-related topics.

Here’s what was discussed:

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Situation in Minnesota

Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 16 new deaths from COVID-19. So far, 2,036 people have died of the virus in Minnesota, including 1,458 in long-term care and assisted living facilities.

To date, 7,701 patients have been hospitalized in Minnesota due to COVID-19.

According to MDH, there were 689 newly reported positive COVID-19 tests in Minnesota on Wednesday, bringing the state's total to 99,134 since pandemic record-keeping began.

16 new COVID-19 deaths, 689 more cases reported in Minnesota

Ehresmann said the seven-day average case positivity rate is at 5.4%, which she said is stable compared with Tuesday, and up from a week ago. She added the state has been above the caution threshold for four days now.

Additionally, Ehresmann said health officials are aware of increasing transmission in neighboring states. She said there isn’t an indication of nurse shortages in Minnesota and said health teams throughout the state are monitoring surge capacity, in case Minnesota follows neighboring states in seeing significant case swells.

Flu vaccine push

During Wednesday’s conference call, Ehresmann stressed the importance of getting a flu vaccine as Minnesota enters the fall season.

Ehresmann said influenza can affect both healthy individuals and those with underlying health conditions. She added that about 4,000 Minnesotans were hospitalized with influenza last flu season.

State health officials are expecting influenza and COVID-19 to circulate at the same time this fall and winter, Ehresmann said, and added that it is especially important for those 6 months of age and older to get a flu shot this year.

Ehresmann said efforts Minnesotans made to socially distance and shelter in place this past spring helped to decrease flu transmission. She added it remains unclear whether COVID-19 might be a "replacement" for influenza in terms of circulation or whether the two will circulate "side-by-side."

To find a nearby clinic that offers flu vaccinations, visit this website.

How can I tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

Effects of Labor Day weekend, school start on state’s COVID-19 cases

With almost four weeks since Labor Day and the start of school, Ehresmann said state health officials have been able to see the effects those events have had on the state’s COVID-19 cases.

Ehresmann said the state is seeing increased COVID-19 activity due in part to the holiday weekend as well as increase interaction in school and sports settings. Ehresmann said there has also been a ripple effect of community transmission that has been taking place since this summer.

Ehresmann added Minnesota is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases among younger populations, which is partially due to school and athletics. She also added that cases among those under the age of 15 are not at the same level as seen among those ages 15-24.

COVID-19 scams directed at bars, restaurants

Ehresmann warned of recent fraudulent efforts to convince bar and restaurant owners in the state that they owe a fine to MDH.

Ehresmann said those conducting these scams are not MDH employees, nor are they public health workers who work with bar and restaurant employees before a fine might be issued. She added that MDH does not issue a fine on an initial inspection.

MDH warns bars, restaurants of scam claiming they owe fine for masking violations

Response to reported security lapse exposing addresses of COVID-19 patients in Minnesota

Recently, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS obtained internal city and state documents that state there were numerous times, starting in August, where certain protocols were not followed and the privacy of addresses of COVID-19 patients in Minnesota was reportedly compromised.

Security lapse exposes hundreds of addresses of Minnesotans infected with COVID-19

Ehresmann said Wednesday that MDH is aware of the situation and that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety is working with leadership to evaluate what happened. She added MDH has paused sharing data with DPS for now, while the investigation is underway.

Listen to the complete news conference via the video player below.


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