COVID-19 related announcements for Thursday, March 19

Posted at 6:05 a.m. Updated at 5:18 p.m.

State Updates

The Minnesota Department of Health reports that as of 11 a.m. Thursday, March 19, there are now 89 cases of COVID-19 in the state, and over 3,000 tests have been administered.

Of the 12 new cases reported today, there is one confirmed case in Clay County, the first case north of Stearns County.

Original report indicated that one of the new cases was in Wadena County. MDH officials confirmed with Bemidji Now that they had an old Wadena County address for the patient.

Updated MDH case map that shows Clay County, not Wadena. The darker blue counties have more cases, while the light green ones have the fewest.

Seven patients so far have been hospitalized for COVID-19 complications. Four of those seven patients have been released, and one remains in critical condition. Six of the first 77 cases are confirmed to have contracted the virus via community transmission.

The cases are found in 19 Minnesota counties and the patients include at least 13 health care workers, nine school workers, one school-aged individual and a state legislative staffer.  Over 3,000 people have been tested as of Thursday.

The healthcare workers were reportedly exposed during out-of-state travel, not while caring for patients.

MDH says the total number of cases is likely an underestimate as the virus is now spreading in Minnesota communities.

“It is very important for everyone to follow advice on community mitigation and social distancing to help us flatten the case curve,” they said in a release.

Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order Thursday, mandating that elective surgeries are postponed, beginning March 23 at 5 p.m.

“The greatest risk we face during the COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming our health care systems and limiting their ability to respond to emerging cases,” said Governor Walz. “This executive order keeps more health care resources open and prioritizes life-saving intervention for COVID-19 patients and other emergency care.”

“We urge Minnesotans to continue staying home if you’re sick and practice social distancing even if you’re not experiencing symptoms,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “But if you do get sick enough to require hospital intervention, we want health care providers to have the resources and space to provide the care you need.”

Walz said Wednesday that there are far more cases out there if the disease is spreading throughout the communities, and since there is a global shortage of testing materials, it will be increasingly difficult to pinpoint an exact number of infected persons.


Walz amended the executive order that closed the dining rooms in restaurants and bars. The language now clarifies that the order also includes salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors and other similar types of establishments.

“The best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to implement social distancing, and this executive order provides clarification on how we can better practice these community mitigation strategies.”

State Announcements

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety is suspending all driving tests, due to examiners being within six feet of the testing subject.

The border between the U.S. and Canada will temporarily close their border to non-essential travel. President Trump announced on Twitter that trade would not be affected.

Local Updates

Beltrami County Public Health Director Cynthia Borgen reports: “You are likely hearing a lot about the inability of our systems to provide testing for COVID-19 to all who would like to be tested.  The guidance for testing has changed and will continue to shift based on the level of community spread, availability of testing components, and other factors yet to be identified.” Borgen emphasizes that staying home when you are sick is the important message to be heard and accepted.

Beltrami County Human Services are encouraging those who need economic assistance to apply online at for emergency, cash or nutrition assistance, or for health insurance. Paper applications are available in the lobby and clients are asked to use the drop box, to limit face-to-face contact.

Community Resource Connections has an updated list of public agency changes. Beltrami County WIC is encouraging phone call appointments to limit in person contact. Northwest Legal Services is encouraging anyone getting evicted to contact them by phone, as they are attempting to stop them from getting processed. The full list can be found at


Bemidji State University is limiting public access and will be closed to the public until at least Monday, March 30. BSU and Northwest Technical College commencement ceremonies this spring will not be held as scheduled.

“This is an unprecedented decision at a time in which we are responding to a national emergency,” said BSU President Faith C. Hensrud. “While we know that this decision will lead to disappointment, we will work directly with our students as conditions allow and collaborate on a way to celebrate their achievements.”

Other announcements:

  • The Paul Bunyan Mall is adjusting its hours. The mall will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. They also say they’re increasing the frequency of regularly scheduled cleanings and sanitation efforts within the mall.

The City of Cass Lake will close all city buildings, starting today until April 6, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency contacts can be found on the city’s answering machine by calling (218)335-2238.

Notice from Cass Lake IHS:

The Cass Lake Service Unit is now pre-screening ALL patients and staff for symptoms of COVID-19 before entry into the facility.
  • VISITOR RESTRICTIONS: Cass Lake IHS will allow entry for only one visitor per patient.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath) or concerns related to COVID-19, please call our dedicated COVID-19 Hotline at 218-335-3426 or 218-335-3427 from 8:00am-6:00 pm Monday through Friday.
  • Please call the COVID-19 Hotline BEFORE you come to the clinic if you are having symptoms of fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
  • You can also call the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) COVID-19 Hotline at 1-651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903 7:00 am- 7:00 pm with COVID-19 questions.
  • CLINICS: We will be postponing all routine and non-urgent appointments until further notice.
  • PHARMACY REFILLS: If you require a pharmacy refill please follow the normal process and call 24 hours in advance 218-335-3293.
  • DENTAL PATIENTS: Dental will remain open from 7 AM until 9 AM Monday through Friday to treat patients with dental pain and/or infection
  • OPTOMETRY/AUDIOLOGY: Appointments will be cancelled until further notice. For any questions or concerns related to Optometry/Audiology, please call 218-335-3320.

For previous announcements, start with this article.

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