Last week’s top stories and what to expect this week in Minnesota

A nurse holds a sign at a sidewalk.
Nurse Keira Conkling stands on the sidewalk in counter protest while people drive around the the capitol to protest the state's stay at home order at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., on Saturday, May 2, 2020. Conkling is an ICU nurse at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, Minn.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Here were the week’s top five stories and a look ahead.

A graph showing the number of COVID-19 positive cases to date.
The number of COVID-19 positive cases to date.
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

1. Testing increases mean daily counts continue to climb and likely will continue. COVID-19’s confirmed death tally is nearly 400 with 6,228 confirmed cases as the state has increased testing. Most of the deaths have been in long-term care facilities - with 15 percent at a New Hope nursing home, reports Peter Cox.

On Friday, the state topped 4,000 tests for the first time, reporting 4,553 completed. On Saturday, the total new tests fell slightly but remained above 4,000, with a total of 4,178. Those one-day tallies are important because Gov. Tim Walz has said the state needs to test 5,000 people daily as part of the plan to open the economy.

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A man holding a face mask gestures.
Gov. Tim Walz.
Evan Frost | MPR News, Pool

2. Walz extended the stay-at-home order until May 18. Some retail store operations, however, will be able to offer curbside pickup of purchases starting Monday. That will put about 30,000 Minnesotans back to work. Dog groomers can head back to work, but dine-in bars and restaurants remain shuttered as do hair salons and barbershops. 

Michael Osterholm, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz
Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota speaks at a press conference with Gov. Tim Walz.
Glen Stubbe | AP

3. Meanwhile, expect a second wave of COVID-19 cases this fall. And with no vaccination or herd immunity, the pandemic will last for 18-24 months, according to University of Minnesota researchers who recommend governments and health care should plan for a worst-case scenario. The study, published Thursday, outlines how the new coronavirus is behaving more like past influenza pandemics than any coronavirus has to date. One of the researchers, Michael Osterholm, who is the director of the UM Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told the Star Tribune: “We are learning how to die with this virus and we have to learn how to live with it.”

A family standing together on a deck.
Kate Austin and her parents, David and Sue Austin.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

4. One family’s illnesses suggest the disease may have arrived in Minnesota earlier than first thought. A sick Kate Austin came back to Minnesota from Japan in late January.  And her arrival marked the start of a chain reaction. In the coming weeks, Austin’s parents and friends would get sick — with one of them ultimately being diagnosed with COVID-19. The family’s story underscores just how much understanding of coronavirus has changed in a short period of time, and suggests that the virus has been in Minnesota weeks, if not months, longer than tests initially detected. 

Vice President Mike Pence, center, visits Mayo Clinic.
Vice President Mike Pence at Mayo Clinic.
Jim Mone | AP Photo

5. Vice President Mike Pence visited Mayo Clinic. Pence, who leads the White House Coronavirus Task Force, got an up-close look at Mayo’s COVID-19 research and its plans to help the state scale up testing on Tuesday. Pence did not wear a mask during his visit, which created a stir on social media. The CDC recommends wearing a mask while in public to help prevent transmitting the virus.

Coming up this week

  • Elective surgery, dental visits? Walz told WCCO radio that a decision on reopening dental offices and restarting elective surgeries could come as early as Monday. He also hinted that hair salons and barbershops may open before May 18. “We’re not frozen in time, we’re going to continue to turn the dials,” Walz told WCCO’s Dave Lee Friday.

  • Fishing season opens. A rite of Minnesota spring — the Governor’s Fishing Opener — was canceled this year (or rather postponed until 2021). However, the walleye and northern pike season opens May 9. Walz has encouraged Minnesotans to get outside and in mid-April he OKed boating — at a safe distance. 

  • Expect arguments in the last two weeks of Legislative session. The DFL House and Republican Senate are taking distinctly different approaches to the COVID-19 crisis in the final two weeks of the legislative session.

  • It’s the first week of our member drive. This vital news coverage is made possible by our members. You can donate today.  

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  • The New York Times’ detailed coronavirus data analysis. In one of five data breakdowns, the Times predicted St. Cloud will be the No. 1 city to see the next COVID-19 outbreak. That is based on its average daily growth rate of cases (42 percent) and with cases doubling every two days. Minnesota officials told the St. Cloud Times that aggressive screening at meat-packing plants where there have been outbreaks influence that number. On Saturday, the number of reported cases had mushroomed to 531.

  • Life in the new normal. In this photo gallery see how Minnesotans are learning to live and celebrate at a distance, behind windows and also practice their right to protest. 

  • Are you a parent? Hop on over to MPR News’ Raising Kids in Minnesota Facebook group. It’s a community filled with support, suggestions and solace in these challenging times.