Coronavirus Daily Briefing: Minnesota health plans waive COVID-19 costs; chance of in-person school this year ‘slim’

[anvplayer video=”4877834″ station=”998122″]

Eighteen people in Minnesota have died of COVID-19 as of Thursday with 742 total cases in the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. MDH also reported 138 cases required hospitalization with 38 COVID-19 patients requiring ICU care. Additionally, 373 patients have recovered and have been released from their isolation.

Gov. Tim Walz and state leaders on Thursday announced that Minnesota health plans have agreed to waive COVID-19 related costs for patients.

With that decision, Minnesotans are eligible for benefits that include no cost-sharing charges for COVID-19 testing, no cost-sharing charges for in-network hospitalizations and expanded access to telemedicine services.

"This move will help ensure no Minnesotan has to sacrifice paying rent or buying groceries to cover a hospital bill from COVID-19," Walz said. "I’m grateful Minnesota’s health plans are putting the health and safety of our fellow Minnesotans first during this pandemic."

Walz also announced that child care provider emergency grants are now open and called the need for childcare for healthcare workers "critical."

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm gave an update on the number of cases around the world. Cases of COVID-19 have reached one million, with deaths approaching 50,000. More than 216,000 cases have been confirmed in the US with over 100,000 of those cases being in the New York and New Jersey area, according to Malcolm.

Walz went on announce that the names of congregate facilities with COVID-19 cases will be released.

The lack of names has come under fire in recent days with some state lawmakers urging Walz to release the facilities’ names. Malcolm announced that 47 facilities have at least one case with six facilities having more than two cases. The most cases in a single facility is eight and the number of deaths within these facilities is 11.

Additional assistance is being requested from the federal government during the pandemic.

Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Managment Director Joe Kelly announced that he is finalizing a letter from Walz to President Donald Trump requesting a major disaster declaration. This declaration would help with the need for crisis counseling in the state.

[anvplayer video=”4877790″ station=”998122″]

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove gave an update on the number of Minnesotans applying for unemployment insurance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grove said 297,397 workers had applied for the insurance since March 16 with 24,641 applying Wednesday. There are fewer claims this week than in the previous week, which makes Minnesota one of only four states with declining numbers of applications.

Grove also shared the top professions applying for the insurance with over 66,000 applying from the food service and preparation industry, over 27,000 from the healthcare industry, over 27,000 from the sales industry, over 21,000 from administrative professions and over 17,000 from personal care positions.

Many jobs are also hiring, said Grove, with the top areas being nursing assistants, customer service representatives, food prep, first line supervisors, social and human services assistance and software developers.

There is a strong possibility that in-person schooling will be canceled for the rest of the year, according to Walz.

Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Heather Mueller said that members of her department are hopeful students will still go back to school and that there will be a way to honor students graduating in 2020. However, Walz called the chance of school being in-person "slim."

Schools are settling into their distance learning curriculums, according to Mueller. Mueller emphasized that not all distance learning is solely online learning and that depending on what is best for the students, some learning is still being done by pen and paper. Mueller praised educators for "doing what is right, not what is easy."

As far as personal activity safety goes, Walz gave a list of things that are safe to do including fishing on a boat, golfing and running.

The main goal is to create social distance in an ever-evolving situation and use common sense. A tip line has also been put in place to report large gatherings; residents are urged to not call 911 in those instances. That tip line is 1-800-657-3504 and is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

KSTP’s full COVID-19 pandemic coverage

Differing information has been released on the use of masks by the public. On Wednesday, the mayor of Los Angeles requested residents wear masks in public. Walz said that currently, the public does not need to wear masks and that only those most at risk should be wearing them.

Walz concluded the call by thanking Minnesotans and Minnesota-based businesses for their work at banding together during this time.

"Small acts of kindness to each other makes a difference," Walz said.

[anvplayer video=”4877609″ station=”998122″]