April 26 update on COVID-19 in MN: State health officials report 28 more deaths

Samples are tested for COVID-19.
Samples are tested for COVID-19 in March at the Minnesota Department of Health.
Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Health

Updated: 7:15 p.m.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota climbed by 28 on Sunday — the largest single-day increase on record in the state since the pandemic began.

The confirmed death toll in Minnesota is now 272, the state Department of Health reported. The toll has more than doubled in one week; it was 134 on April 19.

Officials said 23 of the 28 deaths reported Saturday were residents of long-term care facilities — including a 44-year-old resident of Hennepin County, the youngest confirmed COVID-19 fatality in Minnesota to date.

Meanwhile the overall confirmed number of cases increased by 156 to 3,602.

There’s been an upward trend in the number of test results reported each day, with more than 2,000 reported each of the last four days. That compares to daily totals around 1,300 to 1,400 a week ago.

But officials say limited testing means the actual number of COVID-19 cases is much higher than what has been confirmed.

New COVID-19 tests conducted in Minnesota.
New COVID-19 tests conducted in Minnesota.
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

Among other statistics released Sunday:

  • 1,774 patients have recovered to the point of no longer needing isolation, an increase of 120 from Saturday.

  • 285 patients remained hospitalized, down from 288 on Saturday; 115 are in ICUs, up from 109 on Saturday.

A graph showing the number of COVID-19 positive cases to date.

State health officials said the deaths reported on Saturday included 22 residents of Hennepin County, two Anoka County residents, two Clay County residents, and one resident each in Dakota and Washington counties. One was in their 40s, two in their 50s, three in their 60s, four in their 70s and the rest 80 or older.

Death and case counts are expected to continue their upward climb. Sunday marked six consecutive days recording double-digit deaths.

The age range of deaths from the disease is from 44 to 109, while age range of those hospitalized is much wider. A 4-week-old baby with COVID-19 remained hospitalized in Minnesota as of Saturday.

Among those those who’ve died from COVID-19, officials say most were living in long-term facilities and had underlying health problems. But among COVID-19 cases overall, officials say near 60 percent are people living in private residences.

A graph showing the percentage of cases tested and their current status.

Allowing out-of-state health workers

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Saturday signed a new executive order allowing some out-of-state health-care professionals to work in the state without having to obtain a Minnesota license.

In the order, Walz pointed to long-term care facilities as well as a quickly growing COVID-19 outbreak in Nobles County.

"Rapid increases of COVID-19 cases ... risk overwhelming local health-care providers, particularly in rural areas. Long term care facilities, which are home to some of the most at-risk Minnesotans, are also experiencing shortages of qualified healthcare professionals," he wrote.

Any out-of-state worker must be licensed in their home state and must be working with an established health-care provider in Minnesota.

In a statement, the Minnesota Nurses Association said it "has serious concerns" with the order, noting that many nurses across the state have been furloughed.

"The terms of these furloughs force nurses to either go without a paycheck or jeopardize their ability to return to work after the pandemic. Even when nurses requested the ability to work in a different facility where they are needed while they are furloughed from their regular job, hospitals refused," the association wrote, calling for a statewide pool of furloughed, unemployed and retired Minnesota nurses.

In his order, Walz called on hospitals and health-care systems to “fully utilize” Minnesota health-care workers, and “ensure that our health-care professionals are allowed flexibility in employment arrangements and labor agreements so that they can render aid where it is needed.”

COVID-19 cases per capita in Minnesota counties

Southwestern Minnesota outbreak grows

Nobles County continues to have the largest cluster outside the Twin Cities and Rochester, with the outbreak centering around the JBS pork processing plant in Worthington.

Last week, company executives announced they were indefinitely shutting the plant, which employs some 2,000 workers, to try and get control of the situation. Employees will have access to drive-through COVID-19 testing this weekend at Worthington Ice Arena.

Nobles County cases continue to multiply rapidly. On Sunday, the Health Department said Nobles County now has 352 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up from 258 on Friday and 325 on Saturday. It had just two cases last week.

It has the largest outbreak by far of any county in the state relative to its population.

Cases have also surfaced at the Jennie-O Turkey Store operations in Willmar, in west-central Minnesota. On Friday, the Hormel Foods subsidiary said it would close its Willmar Avenue and Benson Avenue facilities, both located in Willmar, out of an “abundance of caution.”

The turkey processing plants will be cleaned and sanitized, and employees will continue to receive all base pay and benefits during the shutdown.

As of Thursday, 14 of more than 1,200 workers had tested positive for COVID-19, the company said. Health experts have told the company that as testing increases so will positive results.

State health officials reported 35 confirmed cases in Kandiyohi County on Sunday, up from 12 on Friday and 28 on Saturday.

People hold signs in front of a house.
People protest the stay-at-home order and the cancellation of school for the rest of the academic year outside of the Governor's Residence in St. Paul on Saturday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

St. Paul protest outside Governor’s Residence

Dozens of protesters lined Summit Avenue outside the Governor's Residence in St. Paul on Saturday, calling on Walz to end stay-at-home orders.

Some protesters carried American flags and Trump campaign flags, as well as signs — including one that read, "We Want Our Lives Back." They say statewide measures to slow the spread of coronavirus are causing too much economic harm.

A person holds a flag out the window of a truck.
Cars circle the block around the Governor's Residence during a "Liberate Minnesota" protest in St. Paul on Saturday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

State officials maintain the orders to close some businesses and cancel in-person schooling are important to prevent a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Saturday’s protest followed a larger one held outside the Governor's Residence the previous week. Additional protests are planned in the coming week.

New website to find COVID-19 testing

As part of the governor’s new plan to team up with Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota and launch a massive new testing effort in Minnesota, Walz’s office on Friday unveiled a new website offering citizens information on and where to get tested and how to obtain the results.

Testing in Minnesota and elsewhere has been hampered by supply chain issues and materials shortages. Minnesota has tested about 1,200 or so people daily as of late. That’s only about one-quarter of the testing Walz says is needed.

For weeks, Walz has said that drastically increased testing would be critical to restarting parts of the economy. Two kinds of tests, ones that diagnose COVID-19 and others that see if a person has been exposed to the virus, are included in the plan, along with increased tracing.

While the plan to test 20,000 people a day would make Minnesota No. 1 in the nation for testing, Walz said testing alone would not end the crisis.

Developments from around the state

Cases surge at Willow River boot camp

The Minnesota Department of Corrections is reporting a spike in COVID-19 cases at a boot camp in Willow River.

On Wednesday, the Corrections Department reported 15 cases at the Challenge Incarceration Program in it's Willow River facility in northeastern Minnesota. On Friday, the number of confirmed cases jumped to 40; seven others are presumed to have it. And there are 12 tests still pending.

That means about one-third of all the residents at Willow River — about 140 inmates — have COVID-19. And nearly all the 43 cases reported in Pine County are at the Corrections Department campus, which hosts a program for nonviolent offenders with substance abuse histories.

Family members have complained about a lack of social distancing in the facility. They also say the department was slow to require that staff wear masks.

The Corrections Department said it's implemented a number of measures to minimize the impact of COVID-19. It also said it's increased testing, especially at Willow River and the prison in nearby Moose Lake.

— Dan Kraker | MPR News

MN DFL Party moves May state convention online

The Minnesota DFL Party will hold its state convention online, the party announced Friday.

A statement says it's the first time a convention has not met in person in its 76-year history. The convention was scheduled for May 30 and 31.

Instead, the party will use a remote balloting system to choose candidates. DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said the move was made to protect people from COVID-19.

Minnesota’s Republican Party on Tuesday also announced that the party won’t hold an in-person state convention next month due to the coronavirus situation.

— MPR News staff

Minneapolis to take down, close some park amenities

Minneapolis parks officials say they will take down or block basketball rims and modify other park amenities because too many visitors aren't following social distancing rules.

In a statement, Superintendent Al Bangoura said the board has put a lot of effort into trying to educate visitors about social distancing. Recently, the board posted signs on and around basketball courts warning players that if large, unrelated groups kept using the courts that the rims would come down.

Parks officials say they will also take down tennis court nets, close playgrounds and block access to skate parks in Minneapolis. Signs will be posted in picnic areas limiting gatherings to 10 people or less. The parks themselves will remain open.

The city of Saint Paul took similar measures in its parks earlier this month.

— Brandt Williams | MPR News

Summer X Games, Hmong, Fringe summer festivals canceled

Three more large summer events in the Twin Cities have been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

The Minnesota Fringe Festival, a popular summer performing arts festival in Minneapolis that was scheduled for August will not be held.

Organizers of the Hmong International Freedom Festival in St. Paul have canceled this year's event. The festival had been scheduled for July 4-5 and would have been the event’s 40th anniversary.

A Summer X Games stop in Minneapolis scheduled for July has been canceled due to the coronavirus. The action-sports event plans to bring regular and original programming through the World of X Games TV series and on digital and social channels. They will kick off an event called “Real Street” in May. It’s an all-video, all-street skateboarding competition shown on XGames.com.

— MPR News staff, The Associated Press

Top headlines

MN jobs market has taken some hits, but it’s still standing: Essential workers may find the hiring process is slower, but there are jobs to be filled.

Minnesota’s schools won’t reopen this academic year. Here’s what you need to know: Students across Minnesota have been out of the classroom since the middle of March — first on an extended break, then studying from home in distance-learning mode — because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And they won’t return this academic year. 

JBS plant employees get drive-through COVID-19 testing: Sanford Clinic Worthington and the Minnesota Department of Health set up the site in just a few days this week to test employees of the JBS pork processing plant, where several dozen workers and their families have already tested positive for the highly contagious disease.

Social distancing is working in MN — but only if we keep it up: A new data analysis of the coronavirus outbreak by the University of Texas suggests that Minnesota’s social distancing efforts might be paying off in its response to COVID-19 — but it also implies that even bigger outbreaks might lie ahead if those social distancing practices were to end.

Matching health workers with peers to ease stress of fighting pandemic: People who treat patients with COVID-19 face serious challenges to their mental health — from sadness for their patients to worries about their own safety. A new program at the University of Minnesota is trying to address that by connecting health workers with a buddy.

U of M researchers to study whether coronavirus could get into drinking water: Two University of Minnesota researchers plan to study whether the coronavirus could be traveling from wastewater into drinking water supplies — and posing a potential health risk.

COVID-19 in Minnesota

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.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.