Updated: 5:39 p.m.
COVID-19’s toll in Minnesota continued Tuesday as the state Health Department reported 1,217 people have died from the disease during the pandemic, 20 more than Monday.
The number of people currently hospitalized, however, remained fairly stable at 455, and those needing intensive care remained just under 200. Those metrics are closely watched by state officials as they try to manage the spread of the disease so it does not overwhelm the state health care system.
The newest numbers come a day after officials acknowledged the recent, positive trend in hospitalizations and ICU cases but cautioned people not to be complacent.
Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said Monday that while it was encouraging to see current hospitalizations stabilize and ICU cases dip, officials remain concerned “because we have seen deaths in healthy, younger adults. That is very sobering.”
Because the virus is new, she added, “we’re continuing to be cautious on how we view things.”
While most COVID-19 deaths have involved people in long-term care with underlying health problems, Malcolm said one of the people reported in Monday’s death count was a person in their 20s with no underlying health conditions.
The department over the weekend reported another person in their 20s dying from COVID-19.
No guidance yet on K-12 school year
Asked about when state K-12 public schools would receive guidance on opening school buildings in the fall, Minnesota health officials said school leaders should still be preparing multiple scenarios to start the school year.
“We just don’t now what the state of the epidemic will be at that time,” Malcolm said Monday. “We appreciate people are looking for clarity” but officials haven’t set a date yet to answer the question.
Ehresmann said her agency and the Education Department are in consultation about how the coronavirus could impact the next school year. It could be midsummer before districts learn if they’ll have to continue distance learning or can reopen their buildings.
“Part of the goal is to make sure that there are options available for the fall so that there is time to plan,” she said, “so that we can be nimble if we have to make adaptations given a change in how the virus behaves.”
More openings coming Wednesday
Last week, Gov. Tim Walz announced a further loosening of restrictions on businesses and other aspects of society during the coronavirus pandemic beginning Wednesday.
Among the changes:
Indoor restaurant and bar service and personal services can open at 50 percent capacity with a 250-person limit.
Places of worship can also hold services at 50 percent capacity with a 250-person limit.
Entertainment venues can open 25 percent capacity with a 250-person limit.
Personal care services, including salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors, can work indoors at 50 percent capacity.
Gyms, yoga studio and fitness centers can reopen 25 percent capacity with a 250-person limit.
About 85 percent of the Minnesotans confirmed with COVID-19 during the pandemic have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated. But officials continued their plea to Minnesotans to continue staying 6 feet apart, wear masks and stay home if they feel ill.
The reopenings come as health leaders worry about the potential for a spurt of new cases coming from the protests surrounding George Floyd’s killing.
Four testing centers opened Tuesday in the Twin Cities to check Floyd protest and cleanup participants for COVID-19.
The centers are open for three successive Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from noon to 6 p.m.
The Holy Trinity Church on East Lake Street in Minneapolis
The Sabathani Community Center on East 38th Street in Minneapolis
The New Salem Baptist Church on Bryant Avenue North in Minneapolis
The Jimmy Lee Recreation Center on Lexington Parkway in St. Paul
The testing is free and available to anyone — with or without symptoms. Health officials are urging people who may have participated in protests, cleanup and recovery efforts, vigils, neighborhood defense meetings to be tested, and asking people to make appointments for the tests through the Department of Health website.
Meatpacking hot spots remain
Many of the outbreaks outside the Twin Cities metro area are focused around meatpacking plants. Officials have intensified testing in those hot spots, uncovering more infections.
In southwestern Minnesota’s Nobles County, where an outbreak hit Worthington’s massive JBS pork plant, about 1 in 15 people have tested positive for COVID-19. In mid-April, there were just a handful of cases.
By Tuesday, there were 1,597 confirmed cases, the same as Monday — the first time in nearly a month without a daily increase.
The JBS plant shut on April 20 but has since partially reopened with expanded hygiene and health monitoring measures.
Similar problems have been reported in Stearns County, where COVID-19 cases tied to two packing plants — Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Cold Spring and Jennie-O Turkey in Melrose — skyrocketed in May.
An undisclosed number of workers at both plants have tested positive for the virus. There were about 55 confirmed cases in Stearns County in early May. By Tuesday, confirmed cases were at 2,076 with 17 deaths.
Kandiyohi County in west-central Minnesota is also seeing cases continue to climb more than a month after officials with the Jennie-O turkey processing plant there said some employees had tested positive for the coronavirus. The county had confirmed three COVID-19 cases then.
On Tuesday, the Health Department reported 526 people have now tested positive in the county.
While the counts in those counties are high relative to their population, officials say the growth in new cases in those areas appears to be stabilizing.
Mower County in southern Minnesota, another county with a large meatpacking presence, is becoming a hot spot.
Mower County has jumped the past few weeks, reporting a total of 537 positive COVID-19 cases now with two deaths as of Tuesday. The Rochester, Minn., Post-Bulletin reported recently that two meat plants in Austin, Minn., are seeing COVID-19 cases rise rapidly.
Developments from around the state
St. Paul school board cancels meeting after Xiong’s death
The St. Paul Public School Board has canceled its meeting Tuesday out of respect for chair Marny Xiong, who died Sunday of COVID-19.
The board had been set to discuss its contract with the St. Paul Police Department at their meeting. The discussion comes after the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis Public Schools have both ended contracts with their city’s police department following the killing of George Floyd.
Officials with the St. Paul school district say they'll schedule the board meeting for another time.
— Elizabeth Shockman | MPR News
As economy continues to reopen, Duluth moves to 'normalize' masks: The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are requiring people to wear masks in stores and other indoor spaces as Minnesota moves to reopen additional sectors of the economy this week. But Duluth is taking a different approach, trying to normalize the habit, rather than mandate it.
Why these Duluthians wear masks: Photographer Derek Montgomery talked to people around the city of Duluth about why they wear their COVID-19 face masks.
Northwest Angle first isolated by geography, now by COVID-19: Minnesota’s resort industry is reopening, and hoping for a good season. But in the state’s most isolated community, where tourism is the only industry, resorts are still empty.
COVID-19 in Minnesota
Data in these graphs are based off Minnesota Department of Health cumulative totals released at 11 a.m. daily. You can find more detailed statistics on COVID-19 at the Health Department website.
The coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, coughs and sneezes, similar to the way the flu can spread.
Government and medical leaders are urging people to wash their hands frequently and well, refrain from touching their faces, cover their coughs, disinfect surfaces and avoid large crowds, all in an effort to curb the virus’ rapid spread.
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