State lawmaker urges mandatory COVID-19 testing at all long-term care facilities

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As it does every day, the Minnesota Department of Health released the latest information on the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

Tuesday, the agency reported 10 of the 15 new deaths were in long-term care facilities. The updated list names 111 long-term care locations with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The ongoing outbreaks led one state lawmaker to go public with a request directed to the Governor to take more action. "80% of those in Minnesota who've died from coronavirus live in long-term care facilities," said Senator Karin Housley (R) District 39.

State data shows people are more susceptible when they live in a congregated setting, they're older in age, in poorer health, and interact with a lot of staff in a facility, "we continue to see this as a priority population because of their vulnerabilities," said Kris Ehresmann the Director of Infectious Diseases with MDH.

Sen. Housley said right now only residents showing symptoms are tested for COVID-19. She called on Gov. Walz to expand the guidelines and require mandatory, uniform testing for patients, plus employee's who often work at multiple sites.

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"I think it's a good place to put resources when you're talking about we know where the hot spots are, we have data, so now it needs to be all hands on deck," Sen. Housley said.

Daniel Huff, an Environmental Health Expert who was part of the Department of Health briefing Tuesday said, "we're not where we want to be, we don't have capacity to test all the people we want to test, but we have doubled that since a week ago."

The Governor's goal is to reach 20,000 tests a day.

Sen. Housley also said if more people are needed for testing, she would support calling in the National Guard. A spokesman for the Gov's office was contacted for comment and is working to get a response. The office did note the state has greatly expanded testing capacity.  Also, the Department of Health pointed out once testing is ramped up, the long-term care facilities need to be ready for the results, meaning if someone tests positive they must immediately be isolated and quarantined. In those cases they must be prepared with extra space.