Data: How COVID-19 has affected group care facilities in Minnesota

Wheelchairs sit in a hallway at a care facility
Wheelchairs sit in a hallway at a long-term care facility. Of the 12 deaths related to COVID-19 in Minnesota, the majority involve elderly people who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
Steve Mullis | MPR News 2009

Updated April 1, 10:32 a.m.

Minnesota’s health officials released more details on how the coronavirus affects people living in care facilities. Nearly 10 percent of the state’s 629 confirmed cases have been in congregate care settings, the Minnesota Department of Health says.

Of the 12 deaths, 11 have been people in these kinds of facilities. Those 11 deaths have been in nine different facilities in the state. The state says the majority of deaths have been people in their 80s.

Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said those cases are spread across 39 facilities, and in 29 of those there is only one confirmed case. Four facilities have two cases and six facilities have more than two cases.

Here is a breakdown of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in group care residences:

Ehresmann said the facilities face shortages of personal protective equipment such as face masks. Once a case is confirmed, the state emergency operations center helps with the supply.

Ehresmann said a cloth mask could minimize transmission between staff and residents. Even if they aren’t at the level of protection of N95 masks, the cloth substitutes can help to block the transmission of droplets, she said.

“Anything we can do to minimize the chance of any sort of inadvertent transmission,” she said.

When a case happens in a facility, investigators try to establish two things – how the person got the disease, and who else might have been exposed. They also follow up with health care workers on how they feel and try to trace contacts.

Minnesota health officials are also directing facilities to either isolate residents confirmed to have COVID-19 or keep residents together where there is more than one case. Staff continue working with the same infected patients, to try to reduce spread.

"This congregate care setting is really our greatest concern and our focus right now," Ehresmann said. "We're looking at all the things we can do to be preventive ... ways we can support facilities if they have a case.”

“And we want people to realize that the restrictive guidance that we've put in place is to protect the residents as best we can because what we're seeing is even with that in place we can have situations where there is transmission and I'm sure that if we hadn't had those things in place we would've had transmission earlier,” Ehresmann said.

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