Posted at 11:08 a.m. Updated at 11:14 a.m.
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.
Today, the Minnesota Department of Health reports 463 of new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 4,644. An additional 18 deaths were added today, bringing that total to 319.
Almost 67,000 have been tested for COVID-19, and 2,043 are out of isolation. There are 320 Minnesotans currently hospitalized, with 119 in the ICU as of today.
A significant majority of COVID-19 deaths are occurring in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, a vulnerable setting where age and comorbidities, or underlying health conditions, play a significant factor in the seriousness of COVID-19. Medical experts estimate about 80 percent of those who contract the novel coronavirus are able to recover without medical intervention.
Gov. Tim Walz, as of press time, has not yet extended the stay at home order past May 4, but the state’s top news sources indicated earlier this week that he may consider revising or extending the order by the middle of this week.
ALTERNATE CARE SITE
Gov. Walz and the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) have finalized a lease agreement for an alternate care site in Roseville. Presbyterian Homes-Langton Shores has been identified to be an appropriate setting to provide low-level medical care or monitoring, should it ever be needed during the COVID-19 pandemic to address hospital capacity issues. The facility will not be designed for walk-up medical care, nor as a COVID-19 treatment facility.
The Governor tasked the Minnesota Department of Public Safety division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DPS-HSEM) to partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Minnesota National Guard, and the Minnesota Department of Health in establishing a working group to identify potential alternate care site locations.
“Minnesotans deserve as much peace of mind as we can give them during this pandemic, and signing this lease is another way we’ve made good use of the time Minnesotans have bought us by staying home and slowing the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Walz. “By setting up this alternate care site in Roseville, our team is making sure that—should it ever be needed—our hospitals have the capacity they need to treat all patients who need care.”
“Every day in the State Emergency Operations Center, we are working to prepare Minnesota for the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Joe Kelly, HSEM director.
“Should we ever reach the point when we need extra space in our hospitals, this alternate care site will be ready for Minnesotans.”
The site will only be used if hospitals need to make space for critical care. The Minnesota Department of Health is tracking hospital surge capacities daily and posting that data online to the COVID-19 Response and Preparation Capacity Dashboard. The Hospital Surge Capacity Dashboard details the current capacity, the beds that can be ready in 24-72 hours, the ventilator surge capacity, and the ventilators on back order.
Expansion capacity within hospitals will be used first. Should those capacities be reached, hospitals would work with patients to identify those who could be safely transferred to alternate care sites in order to free up hospital space to treat COVID-19 patients. The transferred patients would then continue their treatment or recovery in the alternate care site.
“Patients belong in a hospital as much as possible for as long as possible to keep people comfortable,” said State Healthcare Coordination Center (SHCC) Manager Dr. John Hick. “If the alternate care site is needed, it will mirror hospital spaces, which is why we prioritized sites like Presbyterian Homes-Langton Shores, which has some of this infrastructure already in place, over larger open-space community facilities.”
The alternate care site work group is a part of the SHCC. The SHCC is working within the SEOC and is using guidance materials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to tailor the locations for Minnesota’s regionally specific needs. If an alternate care site is needed, requirements for equipping, staffing, and securing the sites will be determined by the SHCC.
MINNESOTA COVID-19 HEADLINES
Republicans in the Minnesota House once again tried to overturn the governor’s emergency declaration Tuesday.
“Governor…. please don’t use a machete and just do a broad stay-at-home for another two to four weeks,” said Representative Dave Baker (R-Willmar).
“Use a scalpel and do this right.”
The second attempt to end Gov. Tim Walz’s peacetime emergency declaration by House Republicans was unsuccessful.
“It’s not Governor Walz who has shut down Minnesota businesses,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler.
“It is a virus. It is people concerned about their own health.”
Winkler added that a number of bills are moving forward in the House to help businesses and individuals hit hardest by the pandemic.
Vice President Mike Pence visited the Mayo Clinic yesterday, and made headlines when he did not wear a face mask, a policy for any visitor at the premier healthcare facility. Pence said, in a statement, “As Vice President of the United States, I’m tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis, and everyone who is around me is tested for the coronavirus.”
Studies suggest the wearing of a face mask can prevent the spread of germs by the wearer.
The Bemidji Fire Department says anyone wishing to donate homemade cloth masks can still bring them to Fire Station 1 on 5th Street and America Avenue. A mask drive took place last week with a drop off last Saturday at all fire stations.
Plans for a rally in downtown Bemidji are currently underway. The rally is scheduled for this Saturday, May 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Read more about it here.
Sanford Health will soon have antibody testing available across its network. Antibodies are present in the immune system and are used by the body to attack a virus. Read more about it here.
MDH reports, as of today, six COVID-19 cases in Beltrami County, two in Clearwater County, five in Cass County and two in Itasca County. Itasca County Public Health reports their number is higher than what is shown on the MDH map.
Nearby Polk County has 26 of cases as of today. Becker County has two confirmed cases. There are currently one case each in Koochiching, Roseau, Marshall, Pennington and Mahnomen Counties. Wadena County is also now showing one case of COVID-19.
MDH recently confirmed the first COVID-19 death in Crow Wing County. There have been 20 confirmed cases there.