Situation update for Thursday, March 26

Posted at 10:33 a.m. Updated at 3:03 p.m.

This article will be updated throughout the day as more information becomes available. For yesterday’s developments, view this article

STATE UPDATES

The Minnesota Department of Health reports there are now 346 positive cases of COVID-19 in the state, with almost 13,000 tests completed at MDH or other laboratories. That’s 59 more than yesterday’s total of 287.

According to the MDH website, another person has died due to complications of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to two.

MDH officials say the patient was a Ramsey County resident in their 80s.

“We are saddened to report that a second Minnesotan has died from a confirmed case of COVID-19. As with the first death announced March 21, this second death involved a resident of Ramsey County in their 80s. We will provide any additional information that is available on this death during the afternoon media briefing call.”

Overall, 41 patients have needed hospitalization, and 31 are hospitalized as of today. Over 130 patients no longer need to be isolated.

In a press conference this afternoon, Gov. Tim Walz said there are now 18 patients in critical care right now. There are 235 ICU beds across the state.

The patient ages in all cases ranges from 5-months-old to 104-years-old.

Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Joe Kelly clarified how his agency will expand health care during the two-week stay at home order.

“When we say we’re expanding intensive care unit beds and the support system, that’s the hospitals working to expand capacity in the hospitals,” said Kelly.

“The alternate care sites will be temporary facilities where non-critical patients will be cared for, while keeping the most gravely ill in the hospital.”

Kelly said medical professionals expressed concern about open spaces such as arenas for these temporary facilities, due to other challenges including norovirus and staph infections. Kelly said they will look at single room structures such as dormitories and hotels.


 Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon is exploring some pandemic election options.

“The current public health crisis has been a serious test for all Minnesotans. It has also been a test for our democracy. I’ve heard from many Minnesotans who wonder how, or even if, we will vote in this high-stakes election year. My answer is clear: The 2020 statewide elections should go on as scheduled,” Simon said. “It is important that we be prepared for a different kind of election than we’re used to. There are many options available, and which one we use will depend on what our world looks like on Election Day.”

Some of the pandemic election options Secretary Simon is exploring includes statewide mail ballots and expanding absentee voting.

“Whatever option we use, we’ll do this thoughtfully and carefully. No one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote. There are a number of costs, variables, and trade-offs to consider, and planning at all levels of government will be crucial. I am actively having conversations with counties, cities, and other partners to explore how we might proceed.

“There are also debates happening in Congress right now about whether, and to what extent, to help states with the cost of increased voting by mail,” said Simon. “Whatever the outcome of those discussions, rest assured that we in Minnesota are working on an election plan now. My mission is the same, even amid a pandemic: to make voting as easy as possible for all eligible Minnesotans.”

RELIEF PACKAGE

The U.S. Senate passed an emergency relief bill yesterday, and while it’s still up for debate in the U.S. House of Representatives, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar released a statement.

“As we confront the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we must protect the health, safety, and economic security of the American people,” said Klobuchar. “After days of bipartisan negotiations, the emergency relief package that the Senate has passed will deliver much needed assistance to patients and those on the front lines combating this pandemic and will provide economic support for people across the country. While this legislation is a step in the right direction, there is much more work to do and I will continue fighting for all Americans.”

BLOOD DONATIONS

Those healthy enough to donate blood are encouraged to do so.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, blood donation centers are taking additional measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, like spacing out appointments and donor beds. Schedule an appointment today with American Red Cross: Blood Services or Memorial Blood Centers: Coronavirus and Blood Donations.

LOCAL UPDATES

Community members are asked not to overwhelm the law enforcement dispatch center with calls on non-emergency COVID-19 information. Law enforcement is not issuing permission passes for travel. Those who would like to inquire if their job is classified as essential can email criticalsectors@state.mn.us. The Minnesota Department of Health has a hotline for general questions at 1(800)657-3903. Beltrami County also has a website on COVID-19 information.

Muller also added that due to a reporting anomaly, the confirmed Beltrami County case from yesterday did not appear in the MDH situation update map. Sanford sends their lab work to their internal lab in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Beltrami will likely appear on the MDH map tomorrow morning at 11 a.m.

  • Sanford Health pharmacies in Bemidji and Blackduck will offer curbside prescription pick-up starting today. Patients will find designated signage in each location for the service, either in the parking lot or near the front entrance of the building. Signage will include a phone number for the pharmacy.  Patients will call the pharmacy from their car and a pharmacy team member will deliver the prescription to the patient’s vehicle. They will also coordinate payment and medication counseling to the patient – all without the patient leaving their vehicle.
  • Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College president Dr. Faith C. Hensrud penned a letter assuring students that classes will continue despite Gov. Walz’s stay at home order yesterday. “During this two-week Stay at Home order, we will continue to provide our instructional services beginning on Monday, March 30, via alternative delivery methods, as we have been planning. We also will continue to provide services and support for our students, also using alternative modes of delivery and following social distancing protocols for any necessary in-person interactions,” said Hensrud. “In addition, we will continue to limit public access to our campuses.”
  • The Northwest Minnesota Foundation is now accepting applications for grants up to $5,000 for eligible nonprofits, governments and tribal agencies in their twelve county region. Applications and more information are available here.
CLOSURES AND CANCELLATIONs
  • Riverwood Baptist Church, on 15th St. NW across the bridge, will be closed for the duration of the stay at home order (effective Friday at 11:59 p.m. until 5 p.m. Friday, April 10).
  • The Bemidji Public Library will their public drop box tomorrow night at 11 p.m. All late fees will be waived during this time period. Patrons are encouraged to not lose their library materials.
  • Many local businesses and shops that do not qualify as an essential service will either close or look at other delivery options. Grocery stores will remain open, as will banks, gas stations and convenience stores, and take-out and delivery at restaurants will still be allowed. Call ahead to any other business or organization to ensure that they are open.

 


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 is also an active member with the Bemidji Jaycees, a leadership development through community service organization for adults 18 to 40. Larissa, native to the great state of New York, grew up in Bemidji, and enjoys spending her spare time with her growing family and pet cat. She also loves Star Trek, punk rock music and the theater.


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