Posted at 11:18 a.m.
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.
The Minnesota Department of Health reports an additional 365 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 new deaths in today’s update. Almost 64,000 tests have been administered, with a total of 4,181 positive cases and 301 deaths.
Over 1,900 have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated. There are 314 Minnesotans hospitalized for COVID-19 today, with 120 in the ICU, two fewer than yesterday.
During yesterday’s press briefing, Governor Tim Walz, as well as officials from the Minnesota Department of Health, Department of Labor and Department of Agriculture, highlighted public health support and outreach to ensure food processing facilities and workers can navigate the COVID-19 pandemic safely, in light of the recent closures of meat processing facilities such as JBS in Worthington.
According to a release, food processing facilities across the nation have been particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of COVID and have paused operations.
A bill designed to expand access to broadband in Greater Minnesota is making its way through the Minnesota House. Author of the bill, Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-International Falls), says the pandemic has made it apparent that access to broadband is critical now more than ever.
The bill will allocate $10 million for border-to-border broadband, $8 million to reimburse schools and $2 million to reimburse healthcare workers using broadband.
A vote-by-mail bill also passed through committee yesterday. According to a release, the Minnesota House State Government Finance Division approved a measure that authorizes Secretary of State Steve Simon to direct that the 2020 state primary and the state general elections in November be conducted primarily by mail.
“It’s difficult to predict what the status of COVID-19 will be in Minnesota during the August primary or the November election, which is why it is our duty to provide the necessary resources for Minnesotans to vote in a safe and accessible manner,” said Rep. Raymond Dehn (DFL-Minneapolis), author of the bill and chair of the House Subcommittee on Elections.
“Minnesotans hold the right to vote in high regard, just as they do the health and wellbeing of their neighbors. By granting the Minnesota Secretary of State these tools, we can better ensure that Minnesota can adapt to whatever comes our way later this year.”
Two measures also passed the House Health and Human Services Finance Division Monday. The first, authored by Rep. Jen Schultz (DFL-Duluth), delivers a 15 percent temporary rate increase for personal care assistance services, and increases the allowable hours worked by PCAs.
“Minnesotans with disabilities and the elderly are among those most impacted by our current pandemic, and they deserve to receive quality care and services,” said Rep. Schultz.
“PCAs provide critical, but challenging services, and with low wages and benefits, it’s extremely difficult to recruit and retain qualified, dedicated individuals to these positions. By boosting wages in our emergency situation, we can help ensure all Minnesotans can be safe, healthy, and live with dignity.”
In addition to the rate increase, PCAs can now be paid for 310 hours of services each month, an increase from the traditional 275 hours.
Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan) authored the second HHS bill which provides a one-time, $500 supplemental payment for families enrolled in the Minnesota Family Investment Program or the Diversionary Work Program.
“All Minnesotans deserve economic security during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Halverson.
“Those who are least likely to have it are being hit hardest by this public health crisis. Providing one-time payments of $500 will help thousands of Minnesotans and their families make ends meet and continue moving towards financial stability.”
Greater Bemidji and the United Way of the Bemidji Area have partnered to bring an innovative childcare solution to this area. The Step Up to Sit program matches individual babysitters to families in need of childcare. Babysitters are currently being recruited and families are encouraged to register to receive services. Read more about it here.
Itasca County Public Health recently confirmed their third and fourth cases of COVID-19. According to a release, both were employees at congregate care facilities, and both had contact with known positive cases. Read more about it here.
A critically ill COVID-19 patient was recently treated with plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient, the first for Sanford.
According to a release, the treatment is part of a national clinical trial to test the effect of blood plasma in treating COVID-19. The use of plasma under this program is for hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19, or those at high risk of progression to life-threatening disease.
Convalescent plasma is an antibody-rich product made from blood donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19. Studies suggest the plasma may lessen severity or shorten the length of the illness caused by the virus.
“This is another step forward in our efforts to find effective treatments for this virus,” said Allison Suttle, M.D., chief medical officer for Sanford Health. “It’s still early, but we are optimistic that the disease-fighting antibodies found in plasma could potentially slow the progression of the disease in our sickest patients.”
Because the therapy is still considered experimental, the convalescent plasma is being administered under the Expanded Access Program led by Mayo Clinic. Multiple Sanford Health sites are participating in the program. This patient was treated at Fargo, with the plasma coming from the New York Blood Center.