4 dead in Minnesota as cases jump to 398

Published 4:11 pm Friday, March 27, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Minnesota now has four deaths linked to COVID-19, up from two Thursday, and the number of cases has jumped to 398 from 346, state health officials reported Friday.

Authorities have been bracing the public for more deaths as testing expands and more tests come up positive; 34 people are hospitalized now. Among those who’ve contracted the disease in Minnesota, 180 have recovered.

All four of those who died in Minnesota were in their 80s, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Friday afternoon. Three had been living in long-term care facilities. The state has 17 congregate care sites, such as nursing homes, with at least one confirmed case.

Email newsletter signup

The state has 1,268 adult ventilators available and Gov. Tim Walz said he was working to secure more, believing they will be needed; 14 COVID-19 patients in the state remain in intensive care.

Officials also pleaded with Minnesotans not to call 911 with general coronavirus questions and instead contact the state hotline at (651) 201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. State emergency management director Jerry Kelly said some 911 centers were being inundated with coronavirus calls.

The new data on cases and deaths come as officials continue to call on Minnesotans to stay home to help slow the disease’s spread. Restaurants remain takeout-only; public school buildings are shuttered now until early May.

Walz’s two-week, stay-at-home order kicks in Saturday. Rosedale, Burnsville and HarMar malls are expected to close over the weekend. The Mall of America is already closed.

On Friday, authorities said they would close vehicle services offices at the end of business Friday through April 10 to comply with Walz’s order. The state will extend expiration dates for licenses and permits set to expire in this period. Vehicle registration can be renewed online or by mail.

Besides working to slow the spread of the coronavirus so it doesn’t overwhelm the health care system, state leaders are trying to confront the economic toll created by tens of thousands of Minnesotans thrown out of work. About 28 percent of working Minnesotans will be temporarily jobless the next couple of weeks.

State lawmakers Thursday backed a $330 million rescue plan that aims to head off some economic, health and spillover consequences of the pandemic. Together with an earlier package, the Legislature has OK’d more than $500 million, with Capitol leaders saying more actions will follow.

Beyond the pandemic and the strain it’s causing on the state’s health care and economy, Walz and state leaders are wrestling with other tough issues.

For instance, the governor and others are urging Minnesotans not to head for their cabins in greater Minnesota to ride out the pandemic, warning that could overwhelm rural stores and hospitals if people get sick in lake country or spread the virus there.

Officials are also increasingly worried about the spread of hate. Reports are rising about Minnesotans of Asian descent being targeted for hate speech or discrimination in the state, apparently because of the outbreak’s reported origin in China. Walz on Thursday said Minnesotans were better than that.

And as Walz continues to call on Minnesotans to keep their distance to help slow the spread of the disease, reporters asked him whether the Minnesota State Fair might be at risk of being called off or postponed from its historical late August-early September run.

The fair puts hundreds of thousands of people close together each year; Walz and other officials have expressed concerns that Minnesota and other states will be dealing with coronavirus cases through the summer.

“Minnesota does need the State Fair,” he said, adding that it was probably too early to make a call. “It would certainly be my hope by the time we got to that point, we’d have a handle on this thing.”


1st COVID-19 case reported in Faribault County

Faribault County saw its first confirmed COVID-19 case Friday, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The individual is a teenager who is recovering at home, said Tim Langer, public health sanitarian for Human Services of Faribault and Martin Counties.

The Department of Health stated Waseca County saw an increase by one of confirmed cases, moving its total to three. Mower County has 10 confirmed cases, ranging in age from late teens to late 50s, and Steele County has five. Blue Earth County has seven confirmed cases.

“Folks need to take this seriously,” Langer said.

He said the other county he oversees, Martin County, has 18 cases.

Langer said people need to practice social distancing of being at least six feet apart and follow Gov. Tim Walz’s orders. He suggested people not go out unless they have to, noting that the less people are out and about, the less chance they have of spreading the virus.