Situation Update for Thursday, Sept. 3

The Minnesota Department of Health reported 1,047 new cases of COVID-19 today and seven new COVID-related deaths, bringing the state’s totals to 78,123 cases and 1,837 deaths.

Of those deaths, 1,348 were residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities. Of those cases, 8,522 were health care workers.

According to MDH’s data chart of positive cases, today’s is the highest single-day number reported in Minnesota. MDH will provide an update at 3:15 p.m. today, which will be available on YouTube.

Since late March, over 1.54 million tests have been completed, with over 1.158 million people taking a test. Yesterday, just under 14,000 tests were completed.

To date, 70,175 COVID patients have been released from isolation.

There are three more COVID patients in ICU today since yesterday, at 138, with 134 other COVID patients hospitalized in non-critical settings.

One new case was reported in Beltrami County today; bringing the total to 329 with one death; one new case in Clearwater County, total of 20 cases; six new cases and one new death in Itasca County, total of 207 cases and 13 deaths; one new death in Lake of the Woods County, total of 13 cases and one death; and one new case in Roseau County, total of 74 cases.

Beltrami Public Health’s Megan Heuer reports the county is currently monitoring 14 active cases, no hospitalizations, with 200 tests pending.

The COVID patient that died in Itasca County was between the ages of 95 and 99, and the COVID patient that died in Lake of the Woods County was between the ages of 70 and 74.

The Safe Learning Plan case rate by county spreadsheet was updated today. These rates are based on new cases over the last 14 days per 10,000 people.

Beltrami County’s case rate dropped to 9.76 for the two-week period ending Aug. 22, compared to 11.06 from the two week period ending Aug.15.

Cass County’s rate also decreased, from 6.2 to 5.86; as did Koochiching County, from 7.91 to 4.75; and Lake of the Woods County, from 15.75 to 7.88.

Clearwater County’s rate increased, from 1.13 to 3.4; as did Hubbard County’s, from 2.88 to 3.36; Itasca County’s, from 3.98 to 5.53; Mahnomen County, from 12.71 to 14.53; and in Roseau County, from 6.47 to 7.11.

For back-to-school planning, the state is recommending counties with a case rate of less than 10 have in-person learning for all grades; from 10 to less than 20, in person elementary and hybrid learning for middle and high schoolers; and for case rates between 20 and less than 30, hybrid for all grade levels.

FROM GOV. TIM WALZ

Governor Tim Walz announced that teachers, school staff, and childcare providers across the state have received access to their free COVID-19 saliva test, totaling more than 250,000 tests. The saliva tests are part of the Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year and consistent with Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan’s commitment to providing access to COVID-19 testing for Minnesotans working in child care and prekindergarten to grade 12 schools.

“As a classroom teacher for more than 20 years and a parent of a child in public schools, I know that a safe classroom is the foundation for learning,” said Governor Walz. “Those educating and caring for Minnesota’s next generation deserve the peace of mind that these COVID-19 tests will provide.”

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has emailed thousands of unique codes that can be used to request a saliva test, which schools will distribute to all staff currently employed by Minnesota’s school districts, charter schools, tribal schools, and nonpublic schools. Additionally, the Department of Human Services (DHS) has provided codes to all staff currently working in licensed child care settings and certified centers.

“All families in our state, including our littlest Minnesotans, want to know their teachers, school nutrition workers, and child care staff are supported. This means if they are exposed to COVID-19 as a frontline worker, we work to make sure they have access to testing,” said Lt Governor Flanagan. “Our goal is to create safe in-person learning for as many children as possible, and saliva tests are one piece of the puzzle to support that plan.”

The tests are provided through a partnership with Vault Health and Infinity Biologix (formerly RUCDR Infinite Biologics, a unit of Rutgers University Human Genetics Institute of New Jersey), the nation’s leading providers of saliva testing. Governor Walz recently announced that the state would be partnering further with the company, to make saliva testing available to all Minnesotans.

Providing testing to roughly 250,000 education and child care professionals is estimated to cost the state $6 million. Insurers will first be billed for medically necessary tests and uninsured individuals will be covered via federal Health Resources and Services Administration funding. The state will act as a payer of last resort, backstopping the cost of tests not covered by other payers so that education and child care professionals will not be responsible for payment.

“A central part of our state’s COVID strategy is testing,” said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “Adding saliva testing to our testing ecosystem both grows and diversifies our testing capacity. Teachers, school staff, child care center employees have a responsibility to get tested if they believe they’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or are feeling symptoms themselves. We hope this test will provide a convenient, reliable, and quick option for them.”

Teachers and staff are not required to take the tests before coming back to the classroom or to continue working in a child care setting. State officials urge them to get tested when they need it, such as when they’re feeling symptomatic or when they believe they may have been exposed to someone who is COVID positive. The tests must be used by the end of 2020, though the state is exploring options to extend access for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.

“Every single educator and school staff member across our state has worked tirelessly to prepare for the upcoming school year and we need to make sure we have their back,” said Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker. “I’m pleased we are able to offer this resource to every school district, charter school, tribal school, and nonpublic school employee providing in-person instruction or support to our students, so they can have access to a COVID-19 test.”

“Child care has remained open throughout this public health crisis ensuring that children have the nurturing and safe care they need while families need to be working,” said Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. “They are heroes during these unprecedented times putting in the extra time to implement the public health guidance. We must ensure that each provider has access to a test whenever it is needed.”

School and child care staff are currently limited to one test per person under this program. They will use the same process for anyone taking a Vault Health COVID-19 saliva test, which includes spitting into a funnel while connected with a Vault test supervisor over a Zoom video call. Education professionals and child care staff will still be able to seek testing at their regular medical provider, local testing location, or when the state offers community collection events. Home schools are not covered by this program.


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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