9 more deaths, total cases top 16K in Minnesota
Published 11:49 am Monday, May 18, 2020
By Minnesota Public Radio News
Minnesota’s COVID-19 toll climbed again Monday as state health officials reported 731 Minnesotans have died from the disease, up 9 from Sunday; 488 people are currently hospitalized, with 229 in intensive care, counts that have stayed roughly stable over the past few days.
It was the first day in two weeks that reported daily deaths came in at single digits. However, the total number of cases in the pandemic continued to rise, jumping to 16,372.
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The agency also continued to report nine probable deaths in Minnesota from COVID-19. Those are cases where COVID-19 is listed on a death certificate but a positive test was not documented.
The latest numbers come on the same day Minnesota’s stay-at-home order ends. Retailers may now reopen with limited capacity and group gatherings of 10 or fewer people, including at places of worship, will be permitted once again.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm continued to urge people to keep 6 feet apart and wear masks outside their homes even as restrictions on public life loosen.
“Lower risk does not equal no risk,” she told reporters. “We’re really going to have to keep up these behaviors for a long time to come.
Health officials say they’re watching several key metrics to gauge if the disease is accelerating as restrictions are lowered. Among them: the number of days it takes for cases to double, the amount of daily testing, the proportion of positive tests and the level of community spread that can’t be traced to specific contacts — an indication the disease might be more widespread.
State leaders said they hope Minnesotans continue practicing social distancing, wearing masks and avoiding unnecessary travel.
Monday’s data showed some encouraging trends, including that cases are doubling about every 12 days now, a longer time period than the state’s seen in recent weeks. Malcolm called it a “positive sign” of the disease’s relatively stable growth.
Officials also said they were continuing to add investigators to contact those infected and work to reach others who might have had contact with them and might also be potentially infected.
Curbs continue on large group venues
Restrictions on restaurants, bars, theaters, bowling alleys and venues that attract large crowds will remain even as restrictions ease starting Monday.
The DFL governor won’t permit restaurants to legally resume dine-in service for now, keeping them takeout-only. He said he’s instructed his agencies to assemble a plan over the next week for a “limited and safe” reopening of bars, restaurants and other places of public accommodation June 1.
On Thursday, the Mall of America said it would begin a limited reopening of stores on June 1. Rosedale Center in Roseville announced similar plans to open stores on Monday and restaurants on June 1 following the government guidelines. Ridgedale Center and Burnsville Center are among other malls planning to reopen on Monday, along with Apache Mall in Rochester.
When they do come back, restaurants, bars and theaters are likely to face capacity limits. Walz also said he signed an executive order ensuring that people can raise safety concerns about their workplaces without discrimination or retaliation.
It’s a similar situation for hair salons and barber shops, gyms and other currently restricted activities that haven’t been able to serve customers since March. Salons and barbershops are allowed to sell products for curbside pickup but aren’t allowed to provide services in-shop.
On Friday, Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said the restrictions on visitors to long-term care facilities would also continue after Monday.
Meatpacking hot spots remain
Many of the recent outbreaks outside the Twin Cities metro area are focused around meatpacking plants. Officials have intensified testing in those hot spots, uncovering more infections.
In southwestern Minnesota’s Nobles County, where an outbreak hit Worthington’s massive JBS pork plant, about 1 in 16 people have tested positive for COVID-19. In mid-April, there were just a handful of cases. By Monday, there were 1,387 confirmed cases, although the numbers are rising at a much slower rate than in previous weeks.
The JBS plant shut on April 20 but has since partially reopened with expanded hygiene and health monitoring measures.
Similar problems have been reported in Stearns County, where COVID-19 cases tied to two packing plants — Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Cold Spring and Jennie-O Turkey in Melrose — have skyrocketed. An undisclosed number of workers at both plants have tested positive for the virus.
There were about 55 confirmed cases in Stearns County two weeks ago. By Monday, confirmed cases were at 1,740 with 10 deaths.
Kandiyohi County in west-central Minnesota is also seeing cases jump three weeks after officials with the Jennie-O turkey processing plant there said some employees had tested positive for the coronavirus. The county had confirmed three COVID-19 cases back then.
On Monday, the Health Department reported 415 people have now tested positive.
Local COVID-19 cases
The Minnesota Department of Health released the following lab-confirmed case numbers on Monday for area counties:
Mower County: an increase in seven cases for a total of 65 cases
Steele County: an increase in six cases for a total of 111 cases
Freeborn County: no increase for a total of 61 cases (28 are out of isolation and no longer contagious). Of the six new cases reported Saturday, two were between the ages of 10 and 20, one was in their 20s, two were in their 30s and one was in their 60s.
Faribault County: no increase for a total of 10 cases
Waseca County: no increase for a total of 20 cases
Confirmed COVID-19 cases
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