Coronavirus Daily Briefing: Officials seek personal protective equipment, continued cooperation with stay at home order
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Gov. Tim Walz and state leaders on Monday thanked Minnesotans for their cooperation with the "stay at home" order thus far and asked for continued patience and compliance. The order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday and will run through at least April 10.
"The world is going to look a lot different week to week," Walz said while noting the situation continues to evolve.
Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the state, in partnership with private labs, continues to test more and more samples. As of Monday, Malcolm said the state didn’t have a backlog in testing any longer. Two weeks ago, MDH said it had about 1,700 testing samples that were frozen and not yet tested.
Malcolm said Sunday that 25 congregate care facilities, such as nursing homes, assisted living or similar long-term care facilities, had at least one confirmed COVID-19 case. On Monday, that had increased to 31. MDH said Sunday that seven of the state’s deaths had been residents of congregate care facilities.
On Monday, MDH reported 73 new positive cases of COVID-19, moving the state’s total to 576 cases. Of those, 92 patients have been hospitalized with 56 still in the hospital as of Monday and 24 of those in intensive care.
MDH said the patients range in age from 4 months old to over 100 years old with a median age of 45.
Malcolm again stressed that health officials know there are more cases throughout the state that simply haven’t been confirmed through testing yet, making social distancing and stay at home guidelines that much more important. Malcolm noted that social distancing is just as important even if you’re outside and enjoying the weather.
According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the virus has infected about 735,560 people worldwide and killed about 34,830. More than 156,380 people have recovered so far.
Walz and Malcolm talked last week about some of the modeling data they look at when making decisions in response to COVID-19. On Monday, Malcolm said they’ll know a lot more about their modeling data in another week to 10 days because they’ll be able to start comparing it with reality. That will also help determine how many people are still really at risk of being infected and how many deaths the state could see. Thus far, Walz and state leaders have been hesitant to give numbers regarding how many deaths the virus could cause in Minnesota after taking the measures they have.
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove said the department continues to get a lot of questions about the stay at home order and whether they are affected. Grove said DEED has had questions from about 2,500 businesses seeking clarification. While they’re working to help as many as possible, he asked businesses to use common sense and act for the greater good.
"We know this is not an ideal situation, it’s a global pandemic," Walz added, urging businesses to let as many employees as possible work from home if they can and contribute to limiting the spread of the virus.
Grove said DEED has received 239,263 new applications for unemployment insurance since March 16, which is more than all of 2019. Grove added that DEED is now using a new system to take applications. The department is trying to limit who it is helping each day by social security number. You can find more information and resources on that here.
DEED also officially launched a small business emergency loans program that was approved by the legislature last week. Lenders as well as businesses seeking a loan can find more information here.
Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Joe Kelly said law enforcement is approaching anybody not following Walz’s stay at home order to educate them and tell them to go home, but they are trying to avoid arresting anyone. Kelly thanked Minnesotans for complying with the order as well as they did over the weekend and urged continued cooperation.
Violating the order in Minnesota comes with the penalties of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines, but Walz had previously noted and reiterated on Monday that law enforcement’s goal is not to arrest anyone but to educate and make sure people aren’t gathering in groups.
Meanwhile, Kelly also noted some needs that Minnesotans can help fill. Front line workers are in need of personal protective equipment (masks, hand sanitizer/sanitizing wipes, rubber gloves, etc.) and those donations are being accepted at any emergency management location and distributed to law enforcement and health care workers. Blood banks are also in need of donations.
Walz noted health care workers do have enough personal protective equipment as of Monday, but the concern is that they won’t in the future as the number of patients continues to rise.
"We have today but it is a tenuous situation," said Walz.
Minnesota public schools began distance learning Monday. Minnesota Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Health Mueller noted that due to the high number of people logging on to the websites schools are using, there were some troubles in several districts.
However, when those bumps get leveled out, Mueller expressed confidence in the plans prepared by teachers and told parents there isn’t anything different about the education, just the environment.