MDH COVID-19 briefing: Update on long-term care facilities, National Guard supporting state's response

Updated: December 04, 2020 06:10 PM
Created: December 04, 2020 03:14 PM

Friday, Gov. Tim Walz and Minnesota officials provided the latest COVID-19 update in the state and highlighted efforts to keep long-term care residents safe.

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said long-term care facilities' percentage of the state's deaths had been falling until we got to October. With community transmission being an issue across the state, more and more long-term care staff are being infected by COVID-19 from the community, which puts on strain on the facilities.

The Minnesota National Guard has helped out facilities in need, helping a total of 17 as of Friday. Also, as of Friday, the National Guard said nearly 600 soldiers and airmen are supporting the state's COVID response, with more than 270 guardsmen assigned to 11 teams providing support in long-term care facilities throughout the state with 100 more in training.

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Major General Shawn Manke, with the National Guard, said Minnesota's soldiers have had a long year and he'd rather they be home with their families for the holidays. However, he knows they care about their communities and are doing what they can to help out those communities, putting the greater good ahead of themselves.

Vice President of Operations at Good Samaritan Society, Nate Schema, and Christine Dallman, the executive director at SpringBrook Village of La Crescent, also joined the press conference and urged Minnesotans to wear masks and combat the spread of the virus. They talked about the selfless work of staff members and how long-term care residents want to see their families. That's why they urged Minnesotans to do their part to control the virus' spread and make those things possible again.

61 new deaths, 5,371 cases reported in Minnesota

Malcolm noted Minnesota ranks 31st (with 50th being best) in terms of average cases per 1,000 residents, with an average of 220.8 cases. The state also ranks 27th in average resident deaths per 1,000 residents at 51.2.

Asked about the plans for distributing a vaccine when one becomes available, Walz said guidance from health professionals will be followed with health care and long-term care groups being treated first. Despite Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka's statement Friday that lawmakers should also be in that priority group, Walz dismissed that and reiterated that front line workers and the most vulnerable will be first in line for the vaccine.

As for a possible economic relief package in the state, Walz expressed optimism and said one should be able to get done in the very near future. Lawmakers are still working together to finalize the legislation. Walz has promised to call a special session to pass it as soon as an agreement is finalized.

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