Posted at 10:02 a.m. Updated at 12:00 p.m.
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.
The Minnesota Health Department reports 159 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 deaths since yesterday, bringing the total to 2,071 for cases and 111 deaths.
Over 1,000 patients have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
Three patients have been moved to ICU since yesterday, bringing the ICU current total to 106.
Governor Tim Walz today issued Executive Order 20-38, which expands allowable outdoor recreational activities. The changes will allow Minnesotans to continue to enjoy the outdoors close to home while following social distancing guidelines.
Facilities that may reopen or remain open include: bait shops, outdoor shooting ranges and game farms, public and private parks and trails, golf courses and driving ranges, boating and off-highway vehicle services (marina services, dock installation, boat and off-highway vehicle sales and repair by appointment only).
Campgrounds and dispersed camping, outdoor recreational equipment retail stores, recreational equipment rental, charter boats, launches and guided fishing remains closed. These new provisions will go into effect Saturday, April 18, at 5:00 a.m.
Executive Order 20-38 allows Minnesotans to engage in a range of activities, including golfing, boating, fishing, hunting, and hiking, as long as they follow new outdoor recreation guidelines. These guidelines include maintaining 6-foot social distancing, avoiding crowded areas, and staying close to home.
State health officials say they have sent COVID testing swabs at field offices around Minnesota to respond faster if workplace testing is necessary.
“If there was a situation where we had perhaps multiple cases in a worksite, then we could work to do some expedited testing,” said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health.
Governor Tim Walz said he wants COVID testing of workers in Minnesota’s food processing facilities to begin soon, “within the next week or so.”
Walz has a statewide goal of testing up to 40-thousand people every week.
The Minnesota House is expected to pass legislation today that allows restaurants to sell wine and beer, cider or seltzer with an order of take-out food. Representative Jon Koznick of Lakeville said this bill isn’t about wine or beer, or any of that kind of stuff, this bill is about jobs.
“Minnesotans should know that their legislators are here working to look down the road for economic stability in our state,” said Koznick.
The measure cleared the Senate Thursday and Governor Walz has indicated he’ll sign into law.
Congresswoman Angie Craig is urging House and Senate leaders to provide more funding for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to support small businesses.
The Minnesota Democrat also requested additional assistance for hospitals, health care centers, and local governments. The US Small Business Administration said it reached the $349 billion lending limit for the program after approving nearly one-point-seven million loans.
Craig said, “I am ready to vote on legislation today to get more support to Minnesota’s small businesses quickly.”
Governors Gretchen Whitmer (MI), Mike DeWine (OH), Tony Evers (WI), Tim Walz (MN), JB Pritzker (IL), Eric Holcomb (IN), and Andy Beshear (KY) announced that they will work in close coordination to reopen the economy in the Midwest region.
The governors said, “We are doing everything we can to protect the people of our states and slow the spread of COVID-19, and we are eager to work together to mitigate the economic crisis this virus has caused in our region. Here in the Midwest, we are bound by our commitment to our people and the community. We recognize that our economies are all reliant on each other, and we must work together to safely reopen them so hardworking people can get back to work and businesses can get back on their feet.
“Today, we are announcing that Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky will work in close coordination to reopen our economies in a way that prioritizes our workers’ health. We look forward to working with experts and taking a fact-based, data-driven approach to reopening our economy in a way that protect families from the spread of COVID-19.
“Our number one priority when analyzing when best to reopen our economy is the health and safety of our citizens. We will make decisions based on facts, science, and recommendations from experts in health care, business, labor, and education.
“We will closely examine at least these four factors when determining when best to reopen our economy:
- Sustained control of the rate of new infections and hospitalizations.
- Enhanced ability to test and trace.
- Sufficient health care capacity to handle resurgence.
- And best practices for social distancing in the workplace.
“Phasing in sectors of our economy will be most effective when we work together as a region. This doesn’t mean our economy will reopen all at once, or that every state will take the same steps at the same time. But close coordination will ensure we get this right. Over time, people will go back to work, restaurants will reopen, and things will go back to normal. We look forward to working together as one region to tackle this challenge together.”
A saliva test to diagnose COVID-19 infections has been approved by the FDA for emergency use. Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic infectious disease expert, said the test is not only quicker, but would lessen exposure for health care workers.
However, Dr. Poland says, a downside is not yet knowing the operating characteristics of the test.
“When somebody spits into a tube, it’s really three different fluids. It’s salivary gland fluid, It’s what’s called crevicular fluid that seeps out from the gums. And then it’s sputum. The operating characteristics of the test are likely to be such that it won’t be as sensitive as the more uncomfortable nasopharyngeal swab test. But we don’t know that yet,” says Dr. Poland.
MDH reports no new changes in the immediate area for COVID-19 case information.
Beltrami County still has five cases, Cass County four, Clearwater three, Itasca and Polk counties each have two cases, and Koochiching, Mahnomen and Roseau counties each have one case.
Koochiching County’s Good Samaritan Society-International Falls is the only long-term care facility in the immediate area with a COVID-19 outbreak. An outbreak is defined by MDH of at least one confirmed positive case.
Clay County, according to MDH, has two confirmed deaths due to complications of COVID-19, with their case number totaling 44.
Snowbirds returning to the area are reminded to stay home for two weeks before venturing out into the community. According to a release from Beltrami County Emergency Services Director Chris Muller, part-time residents are encouraged to shop for essentials before coming to Beltrami County to ease supply chain concerns. If you must shop, please only send one person.
Public Health and Sanford Bemidji are reminding potential patients that if they feel they need medical treatment and have COVID-19 symptoms such as a fever over 100.4 degrees, a cough and/or shortness of breath, to call ahead before arriving at a hospital or clinic. Sanford Health’s main operating board, (218) 333-5000, will be able to direct patients to the appropriate provider.