Updated 3:56 p.m. | Posted: 5 a.m.
COVID-19’s toll in Minnesota continued its climb Monday as the state Health Department reported 10 more deaths, bringing the total to 1,050 since the outbreak began in early March.
The number of Minnesotans currently hospitalized (549) and the number needing intensive care (253) were down slightly from Sunday.
Total positive tests for the disease in Minnesota topped 25,000 (25,208). State data show more than 75 percent of those with confirmed cases have recovered to the point they no longer need isolation. While testing has been on the rise, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said on Monday that the Health Department’s public health laboratory stopped processing results over the weekend as the lab closed when the Capitol complex was evacuated.
The newest numbers come on the same day Gov. Tim Walz’s “stay safe” plan takes effect — another loosening of coronavirus restrictions as Minnesota and health officials expect a spike in cases related to mass protests over the police killing of George Floyd. Malcolm said that the department is brace for the potential spike, though transmission may be limited because the demonstrations have been held outside.
"Everyone should be on heightened alert" for symptoms, Malcolm said.
Health Department epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said the state is coming up with a plan to allow demonstrators access to testing even if they don't have symptoms. She said officials will be working with community health centers and clinics to secure enough testing capacity for people to get tested.
Lynfield said protesters should wait until several days after exposure because the test may produce a false negative if it's done too early. Health officials said they expect to be see whether the protests spread the virus within three weeks.
Among the changes kicking in Monday, restaurants and bars are allowed to serve a limited number of guests for outdoor service, with social distancing required, and personal services like salons and tattoo shops can reopen with up to 25 percent capacity.
If the loosened restrictions appear to cause a surge in cases, state leaders said they could tighten up once again.
During the Health Department’s Monday briefing, Kris Ehresmann, the state's infectious disease director, also said that “we are in desperate need” of blood supplies, urging Minnesotans to donate blood.
Officials continue to pay close attention to the daily intensive care counts, a key metric, as they work to manage the spread of the disease so it doesn’t overwhelm the state’s health care system.
Developments from around the state
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 Monday, there were 1,544 confirmed cases, although the numbers are rising at a much slower rate than in previous weeks.
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 — have skyrocketed.
An undisclosed number of workers at both plants have tested positive for the virus. There were about 55 confirmed cases in Stearns County two weeks ago. By Monday, confirmed cases were at 2,030 with 13 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 Monday, the Health Department reported 497 people have now tested positive.
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.
Restaurants reopen with restrictions as some hunger for more: Outdoor dining can resume Monday amid clamoring by restaurants to scale back remaining restrictions more quickly. Hair care businesses can also serve clients on a limited basis.
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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