March 30 update on COVID-19 in Minnesota: 10 dead, 24 in ICU; cases jump to 576
Updated 7:30 p.m.
Minnesota now has 10 deaths linked to COVID-19, up from nine on Sunday, with 24 patients in intensive care. The number of total cases jumped to 576, officials said Monday. Fifty-six are hospitalized with 24 in intensive care; 260 people have recovered.
Updating reporters Monday afternoon, state leaders made clear they continue to prepare for an expected surge of COVID-19 patients. That includes scoping out sites around Minnesota that could work as makeshift hospitals.
Gov. Tim Walz said the state was also working to secure masks and other gear it will need to protect health care workers as cases escalate. He said Minnesota has enough medical equipment and supplies for now, but that state officials and health care providers are in a race against time.
“If the peak would hit us now, no, we do not have enough,” he said, noting the state’s efforts to buy more time for preparation, including a stay-at-home executive order that took effect over the weekend.
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More than half of Minnesota's counties, urban and rural alike, now have confirmed cases of COVID-19 as the state moves into its first workweek of stay-at-home orders.
The state's group care facilities remain a primary concern amid the coronavirus outbreak — 31 have at least one case of COVD-19 now, up from 25 Sunday, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. Most of the 10 people who died in Minnesota as of Monday were in group care settings.
Officials say they are working now on plans to build out space across the state that could accommodate a surge of patients. The goal is to add 2,750 beds, with 1,000 of those in the Twin Cities metro area, said Joe Kelly, the state’s emergency management director.
Potential sites for those operations, including a former private prison in western Minnesota, are being analyzed now, but the state isn’t ready yet to announce them, he said.
State officials on Monday also acknowledged Minnesota’s first cases of the virus spreading from hospitalized patients to health care workers. Of 157 health care workers testing positive for COVID-19, two came as the result of spread from patients, said Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director. That still-low number is reassuring, she added.
Separately, officials continue to ask Minnesotans not to call 911 with general coronavirus questions and instead contact the state hotline at (651) 201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Some 911 centers were being inundated with coronavirus calls, he said.
Overall, Walz applauded Minnesotans for complying with his two-week, stay-at-home order, saying it and the state’s other efforts to stem the spread of the disease were working. “Minnesotans are doing this,” he said. “You’re getting it right.”
Correction (March 30, 2020): An earlier version of this story quoted Walz saying domestic violence made up two-thirds of police calls during the first weekend of his stay-at-home order. His office later said he misspoke. Minneapolis police did see a slight uptick in reports on Sunday.
Developments from around the state
DWI arrests fall to historic lows as restaurants and bars remain closed
Minnesota officials say DWI arrests fell by more than half the first weekend after the state ordered bars and restaurants closed earlier this month. The state’s Office of Traffic Safety recorded 94 DWI arrests last weekend — compared to 293 over the same weekend last year.
State Patrol spokesperson Lt. Gordon Shank said the decline is welcome.
“Regardless we want this to be zero, and it’s unfortunate that people still make the bad decisions and we still want people to obviously heed the governor’s message and take it seriously, but also we want to make sure people are not risking not only their lives, but the lives of others,” Shank said.
MnDOT says traffic on Minnesota roads also fell by nearly two thirds in the Twin Cities over the weekend compared to previous years.
— Tim Nelson | MPR News
No big concerns on 1st weekend of stay-home order
Officials say the first weekend of the state’s stay-at-home order went relatively smoothly.
State transportation officials said they saw a precipitous drop in traffic on the major highways over the weekend, down by nearly 60 percent in the Twin Cities and 55 percent statewide.
Minneapolis police said they found widespread compliance with the order, although they did have to disperse some gatherings on Friday night and Saturday. There weren’t any arrests or citations, and officers focused on education in their interactions, spokesperson John Elder said.
— Tim Nelson | MPR News
Case totals in neighboring states
North Dakota officials said Monday that a second person has died from complications of the coronavirus in the state. The victim is a woman in her 80s from north-central North Dakota.
On Monday, health authorities in North Dakota ordered a two week quarantine for anyone entering the state from foreign countries or states where the coronavirus is widespread. The list includes 24 states, but not Minnesota or adjacent states. They're also asking anyone returning to North Dakota from any other state to voluntarily quarantine themselves.
North Dakota reported 19 people hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 as of Monday. The state's first COVID-19 death is a former Minnesotan. An obituary says 93-year-old Roger Lehne died last Thursday at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Fargo. Lehne was formerly of Mahnomen, Minn.
As of Sunday, Wisconsin had more than double the number of Minnesota cases — 1,112, with 13 deaths. Wisconsin and Minnesota have tested roughly the same number of patients, according to state data.
Iowa reported 336 cases and four deaths. To the west, South Dakota reported 90 confirmed cases and one death as of Sunday.
— Tim Nelson and Dan Gunderson | MPR News
Assigning days for unemployment applications
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reported Sunday that it is processing a record number of unemployment insurance applications.
It's asking that new applicants follow a system to apply on a designated day, depending on the last digit of their Social Security number.
If the last digit is a 0, 1 or 2, applications should be filed on Mondays. For 3, 4 or 5 —- Tuesdays. 6, 7, 8 or 9 — Wednesdays. And Thursdays and Fridays remain open to any number.
— MPR News staff
Rep. Craig hopes to broaden coronavirus payments
DFL U.S. Rep. Angie Craig says she wants more families to get money from the federal government in response to the coronavirus.
Under the relief measure signed last week by President Trump, those with qualifying incomes will get $1,200 and an additional $500 per dependent.
Craig said the relief bill defines a”dependent" as younger than age 17 and that the definition needs to be expanded to up to age 24 so families providing for young adults can get more money. She's introducing legislation to do that as well as categorize all disabled people as dependents.
"This bill could pass stand alone or we could get it incorporated in a forth stimulus bill if in fact we have one,” she said. “But nonetheless, I think it is absolutely critical that we get this sorted out as quickly as possible for working families."
— Mark Zdechlik | MPR News
Minnesota Opera costumers pitch in to make masks
Costume and scenery makers at the Minnesota Opera idled by the coronavirus outbreak are turning their skills to mask-making of a medical kind.
The workers have set up a production line with the aim of making a minimum of 1500 masks a week. Costume director Corinna Baaken said they are using a variety of materials, including old medical gowns supplied by HealthPartners.
The masks will be suitable for maintenance and cleaning crews, but not for doctors and nurses working with patients. The masks will be used at four HealthPartners hospitals in the Twin Cities metro area.
— Euan Kerr | MPR News
Klobuchar’s spouse recovering but still ill from COVID-19
Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar says her husband, John Bessler, is recovering from COVID19, but remains ill and has difficulty breathing, even after being released from the hospital.
The senator told CNN her husband’s illness has underlined for her the importance of testing for infectious diseases such as coronavirus. She said she’s been working on trying to speed up federal approval of new tests being developed by Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic.
— Tim Nelson | MPR News
Creating safer spaces for outdoor activities
Minnesota's statewide stay-at-home order allows for outdoor recreation, as long as people abide by social distancing rules. And some cities are taking steps to make that easier.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has cut off vehicle traffic along most of West River Parkway between Plymouth Avenue North and 11th Avenue South. It has also blocked vehicle traffic across the Mississippi River on portions of Main and Merriam streets.
The temporary closures, slated to remain in effect until April 10, are aimed at providing more space for pedestrians in those areas.
Also in Minneapolis, city officials said they are "enhancing" the bikeway along Plymouth Avenue North, as well as improving spaces for biking and walking along West 36th Street between Dupont Avenue and Bde Maka Ska, and 26th Avenue South between Ninth Street and Franklin Avenue.
To the north in Duluth, city officials have closed off vehicle access to a mile-long section of Seven Bridges Road and a half-mile section of Lincoln Park Drive, creating more space for pedestrians and bicyclists. They've also cleared snow off a one-mile section of the Willard Munger State Trail.
“The level of crowding observed on the Lakewalk last weekend (March 21-22) makes it difficult for residents to maintain the six-foot separation necessary to prevent transmission of COVID-19,” Duluth Parks and Recreation Manager Jessica Peterson said in a news release. “We have made additional trails available so that residents can recreate without endangering public health.”
Some cities, including Rochester, have closed tennis courts, basketball courts and playgrounds to limit group gatherings.
“We want people to be comfortable enjoying the outdoors and getting some exercise,” Paul Widman, director of parks and recreation for the city of Rochester, said in a news release. “Take advantage of the spring weather but do so smartly and at a safe distance from others.”
— Andrew Krueger | MPR News
Gun sales soar amid coronavirus outbreak: Law enforcement officials and gun sellers say over the last several weeks they’ve seen a spike in gun sales and applications for permits to buy handguns driven in part by first-time owners.
Addiction recovery organizations scramble to keep treating patients: As social distancing takes hold, along with the governor’s order to stay home, recovery organizations are racing to figure out how to keep treating patients during the coronavirus outbreak. Some places — from Hazelden Betty Ford to Alcoholics Anonymous — are moving their groups online and it seems to be working. But others are still looking for how best to serve their clients.
Thinking of heading to a cabin to wait out the coronavirus? Here are a few things to consider: With the state under a two-week stay-at-home order starting at midnight Friday, people who are feeling cooped up or just looking for a peaceful refuge to wait out the COVID-19 outbreak might be thinking of packing up and heading out of town for the next few weeks. Not so fast, say state officials.
Legislature backs COVID-19 rescue plan. The state House and Senate backed a $330 million bill to help head off some economic, health and spillover consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Capitol leaders saying more may follow.
Minnesota Girl Scouts working to get cookies to first responders. The coronavirus outbreak brought the Girl Scout cookie selling season to a screeching halt. Left with unsold inventory, some Minnesota Girl Scouts are now inviting people to donate those cookies to first responders and community groups.
Health officials for weeks have been increasingly raising the alarm over the spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States. The disease 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.
The state of Minnesota has temporarily closed schools, while administrators work to determine next steps, and is requiring a temporary closure of all in-person dining at restaurants, bars and coffee shops, as well as theaters, gyms, yoga studios and other spaces in which people congregate in close proximity.