Minnesota death toll increases to 12; 26 are in ICU with coronavirus

Published 3:36 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2020

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Twelve people have died from COVID-19 in Minnesota, up from 10 reported on Monday, while the number of cases in the state since the pandemic began has jumped to 629, state officials said.

Twenty-six people remain hospitalized in intensive care units. Of the 629 people testing positive to date, 288 have recovered to the point where they no longer need to be isolated, the state Health Department said.

Reports show the virus surfacing in counties across the state, including Martin County on the Minnesota-Iowa border, where 25 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and two have died.

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“I definitely have the sense that the community is scared,” said Chera Sevcik, community health administrator for Martin and Faribault counties. While it’s not clear why the area has the highest number of cases outside the Twin Cities, Sevcik said she and local leaders are meeting regularly on ways to check the spread.

Other cases include a central Minnesota drug and alcohol treatment and recovery program in Brainerd reporting a confirmed case of COVID-19. A local college president in southwestern Minnesota became the first confirmed case in Brown County.

The age range of those infected with COVID-19 in the state runs from 5 months to 104 years. Minnesotans from 58 to 95 years old have died from the disease, the Health Department said Tuesday.

Emergency management leaders continue to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 patients, scoping out sites that could become makeshift hospitals as the need for beds and intensive care units is expected to increase. The goal is to add 2,750 beds, with 1,000 of those in the Twin Cities metro area.

State officials are also working to secure masks and other protective gear for health workers, Gov. Tim Walz said Monday. Minnesota has enough medical equipment and supplies for now, he said, but state officials and health care providers are in a race against time.

“If the peak would hit us now, no, we do not have enough,” he said, noting the state’s efforts to buy more time for preparation.

Most of the coronavirus deaths in Minnesota were in group care facilities, which remain a primary concern. Jan Malcolm, the state health commissioner, said Monday that 31 such facilities now have at least one case of COVID-19 confirmed.

Families tempted to bring their relatives home from a nursing home or memory care facility may find care a challenge as they try to avoid the coronavirus.

“You have to commit yourself to doing the self-isolation there with no visitors,” said Patti Cullen, president of Care Providers of Minnesota, which represents more than 900 long term care facilities across the state.

Cullen said she thinks long-term care stays will surge as the virus spreads and hospitals look for step-down care for recovering patients.

State officials on Monday also acknowledged Minnesota’s first cases of the virus spreading from hospitalized patients to health care workers. Of 157 health care workers testing positive for COVID-19, two came as the result of spread from patients, said Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director.

Overall, Walz has applauded Minnesotans for complying with his two-week, stay-at-home order, saying it and the state’s other efforts to stem the spread of the disease were working. “Minnesotans are doing this,” he said Monday. “You’re getting it right.”