COVID-19 Daily Briefing: State officials discuss personal protective equipment, counties seeing growth in cases

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Tuesday, Minnesota health officials provided the latest COVID-19 update for the state. Some of the topics they discussed included personal protective equipment (PPE) updates and specific counties in Minnesota that are considered among the fastest growing in the country.

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm addressed the latest numbers released on Tuesday. According to the latest report, 665 new positive cases and 17 new deaths have pushed Minnesota’s totals to 17,029 cases and 748 deaths. Of the total deaths, 608 have occurred in long-term care or assisted living facilities.

Malcolm said they are tracking eight counties in Minnesota that all have food processing plant outbreaks in the state. Those eight counties represent only 12% of current new cases despite being among the counties with the fastest-growing outbreaks in the United States. Malcolm did not identify the counties during the call.

MDH reports 665 new COVID-19 cases, 17 new deaths

But much of the conversation was about personal protective equipment. Department of Administration Commissioner Alice Roberts-Davis said hospitals are telling them usage of PPE is relatively flat, with most hospitals reporting three weeks-worth of PPE on hand. She said the normal process is for hospitals to get more PPE through their normal routes and when the hospitals get down to four to seven days of equipment left, the state will step in and refill their supplies.

"Hospitals are setting their own guidelines on how PPE is used," Davis-Roberts said.

Other main points made about personal protective equipment include:

  • Malcolm noted that the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control relaxed some guidelines concerning the use of PPE.
    • MDH Director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology Kris Ehresmann added the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out guidelines for how PPE should be used if not all supplies needed are available. She says the global shortage has forced changes for how the equipment can be used.
  • Technology is being created to sterilize and allow the reuse of some PPE.
  • "Tension" still exists with some hospitals in getting them enough equipment, but the state is doing what they can in providing guidelines and as much equipment as they can.

Regarding elective surgeries, Malcolm said it’s important to separate what is medically necessary at this time and what is discretionary. State health leaders have heard from the public that many people had medically necessary surgeries that impact people’s health and they wanted to make sure those could be done but each facility can make their own decisions on what surgeries to perform and what they won’t do.

Roberts-Davis addressed a warehouse that was recently purchased by the state to store bodies, if necessary. She said it’s a former grocery distribution center in St. Paul. The 71,000 square-foot space will cost nearly $5.5 million. However, a budgeted total of $6.9 million is available for any changes the state needs to make to use the building as they want.

Full COVID-19 pandemic coverage at KSTP