COVID-19 Daily Briefing: Nearly all MN COVID-19 deaths involve underlying health conditions, more tailored ‘stay at home’ order possible

Wednesday, state leaders discussed the status of increased testing efforts as well as potential guidelines as the state’s current ‘stay at home’ order deadline looms.

Here are the topics discussed:

COVID-19 cases in Minnesota

Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported 463 new COVID-19 cases and 18 new deaths, moving the state’s totals to 4,644 cases and 319 deaths.

MDH reports 463 new COVID-19 cases, nearly 100 more than previous high

MDH Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann said the increase in case numbers is due to the increase in testing, which is “not necessarily a bad thing,” she said, pointing to the benefit of having the tools to be better able to see how the virus is spreading throughout the state.

Meanwhile, MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said three people in their 90s, six people in their 80s, five people in their 70s, two people in their 60s, one person in his/her/their 50s and one person in his/her/their 30s had died.

Malcolm said 16 of the 18 deaths reported Wednesday were associated with long-term care facilities. Additionally, Malcolm said that the individual in his/her/their 30s had underlying health issues.

Overall, Ehresmann said those who had underlying health conditions make up 99.24% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.

Malcolm also said that as health officials continue to get more cases, the state is seeing its case fatality rate drop.

Alternate care sites in Minnesota

State leaders are continuing to identify alternate care sites to help provide care in the event hospitals reach capacity and are forced to focus efforts on COVID-19 care solely.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly said arrangements are being made to double Intensive Care Unit capacity. Additionally, alternate care sites would provide care to patients who don’t require a high level of care.

"Hospital patients belong in real hospitals and that means that these community-based alternate care sites will only be used if there are no other options," Kelly said. "We hope we don’t ever need to use them, but as we have said before, hope is not a plan, so that’s why we’ve developed a plan and are executing it."

Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz and the State Emergency Operations Center selected Presbyterian Homes-Langton Place as a location at which low-level medical care or monitoring could take place.

State leaders identify alternate care site in Roseville in event area hospitals reach capacity

Kelly said the facility will be able to provide up to 100 beds.

Meanwhile, MDH Assistant Commissioner Marie Dotseth said health officials are monitoring bed capacity daily and that the situation is "looking good," adding that the state is well-prepared capacity-wise. Dotseth also said health officials are monitoring other cities to understand their efforts and how they’ve been preparing for peak cases.

Economic situation in Minnesota

Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove said his department is seeing a drop in daily unemployment insurance applications.

Grove said there have been about 17,530 new applications filed this week; since March, there have been about 564,690 applications filed.

Grove said a key component of reopening some businesses would be effective health screening on location.

He mentioned the development of a new, web-based tool to help businesses conduct health screenings. The tool—developed by Target, the Minnesota Safety Council and Minnesota IT Services (MNIT)—would help log temperature and health data collected from employees.

What’s next as current ‘stay at home’ order deadline looms

Although Walz was not on the conference call Wednesday, Malcolm voiced that health leaders are appreciative of his approach to work with multiple agencies to get advice on how to handle the current situation.

Malcolm said MDH is sharing data with Walz "all the time," including data about the virus that might help in creating strategies to combat the spread of the virus. For example, Malcolm pointed to being able to use the results from the state’s increased testing efforts to build virus control strategies.

Grove also stated the model Walz released last week showcases the number of factors that can be applied to any given setting—whether it be a workplace or social setting—and that state leaders are actively using the concept of slowly turning the dial as they consider potential future steps.

When asked how state leaders might respond to a more tailored ‘stay at home’ order approach, Ehresmann said efforts up to this point have been set up on behalf of those who are at risk, but also for health care systems to build their response to the virus.

"It’s a combination of things; it’s not just about, ‘Am I OK?,’ it’s about, ‘How am I doing things to benefit the community?’ Ehresmann said. "We’re doing it not just because it’s best for all of us individually but because it’s the right thing for the community."

Malcolm went on to say the idea of a more tailored ‘stay at home’ order for those with pre-existing conditions and in long-term care facilities is possible, as she pointed to what other states are doing with their ‘stay at home’ orders as well as federal guidance. She said there is an ongoing focus on, and protection of, people who are at higher risk for the virus and that a more tailored approach could be part of a future policy decision.

Walz is expected to announce the next steps in the state’s ‘stay at home’ order Thursday with the current order set to expire Monday.