COVID-19 Updates

STATEWIDE UPDATES

Governor Tim Walz sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence asking the federal government to increase Minnesota’s access to COVID-19 testing kits, and all the reagents and supplies needed to conduct those tests, to a minimum of 15,000 tests per month. This letter was a follow-up to the Governor’s request on a March 12 phone call with the Vice President.

“The ability to test and diagnose cases of COVID-19 is critical to Minnesota’s response and mitigation of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads the letter from Governor Walz.

“We have been forced to ration the number of tests performed at our public health lab,” continues the letter. “I call upon you to help ensure we appropriately prevent and mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Gov. Walz announced a state of peacetime emergency Friday, with recommendations from Minnesota Department of Health on social distancing.

Schools in Wisconsin will be shut down this week, but Gov. Walz has not yet taken such a measure here in Minnesota.

COURTS

Medium and low priority court cases will be suspended for the next fourteen days, as the state responds to Governor Tim Walz’s state of peacetime emergency declaration issued Friday. In cases where a speedy trial has been demanded, court cases across the state will be held as usual. High and super high priority cases will continue as normal, and court facilities shall remain open. Jury trials currently underway will continue until the trial is complete, regardless of case type.

MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

As of Saturday, there are 21 cases of COVID-19 in the state. At least the first 14 cases are travel-related, and mostly in the Twin Cities area, with one case in Olmsted County. The approximate number of patients tested is 868.  The patients who have tested positive include an older adult who was on a cruise ship, an adult in their 50s who was traveling in Europe, and an adult in their 30s exposed to international travelers.

Since the outbreak started in December 2019, more than 134,000 cases and 4,967 deaths have been reported worldwide. That includes 2,100 U.S. cases and 49 deaths as of Saturday.

CLOSURES AND CANCELLATIONS

Minnesota Historical Society museums and historic sites will be closed to the public until March 31. All public events, field trips and rentals are also suspended.

Minnesota Department of Transportation will postpone all public meetings and open houses for at least 30 days.

LOCAL UPDATES

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Beltrami County. Sanford Health reports some tests have been administered but none have come back positive, as of Friday.

Beltrami County Public Health and Beltrami County Emergency Management hosted a meeting Friday afternoon with a broad set of community partner organizations, which included Sanford Health, Leech Lake emergency management, Bemidji schools and charter schools, the Boys and Girls Club as well as city and county officials.

Sanford Health urges people who suspect they have been exposed to COVID-19 to call ahead to their primary care provider before traveling to their office. Trips to the walk-in or emergency room are not recommended: patients who suspect they’ve been exposed should call their primary doctor’s office.

Sanford met with media yesterday to brief on the situation and how they are ready to respond.

CLOSURES AND CANCELLATIONS

Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College have extended their spring break, and will likely look to online delivery for classes. The dorms, so far, will remain open, but in a release Saturday, BSU Residential Life asked students not to return until the extended spring break ends. If a student has no alternative living arrangements, they are asked to let them know.

City of Bemidji Parks and Rec has cancelled all their March activities. If you have registered, visit their websit for information on getting a refund.

Minnesota State High School League has suspended or postponed the rest of the winter tournaments, including Speech.

For previously announced cancellations, view here: UPDATE: COVID-19 related cancellations in the area

HEALTH TIPS

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza spreads. It can also spread when people touch contaminated surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

In Gov Walz’s peacetime emergency declaration, these community mitigation efforts are strongly encouraged, as the community transmission phase is likely in the near future.

  • Event organizers cancelling or postponing gatherings with 250 or more people, including concerts, conferences, professional and amateur performances or sporting events.
  • Event organizers cancelling or postponing smaller events (those with less than 250 people) that are held in settings that do not allow social distancing of 6 feet per person.
  • Event organizers limiting attendance to no more than 10 people for events where the majority of participants are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • People and families at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness staying at home and avoiding gatherings or other situations of potential exposures, including travel.
  • Employers making telework arrangements for workers whose duties can be done remotely.
  • Employers staggering work schedules and limiting non-essential work travel.
  • Health care facilities and assisted-living facilities more strictly limiting visitors.
  • Faith-based organizations offering video or audio events.
  • Hospitals and other health care facilities implementing triage before entering facilities (for example, parking lot triage, phone triage, and telemedicine to limit unnecessary visits).

Other hygiene measures recommended are:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Wash your hands often and well: these includes washing for 20 seconds, don’t forget the thumbs and get in between the fingers! If you wear rings, take extra care to wash underneath them.
  • Cover your cough: cough into your elbow, not into your hand.
  • Clean shared surfaces regularly

 


Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers events and issues in north central Minnesota, which include local government, crime, courts, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University and received her degree in 2018. Larissa, native to the great state of New York, grew up in Bemidji, and enjoys spending her spare time with her family and pet cat. She also loves Star Trek, punk rock music and the theater.


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