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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Death toll in Minnesota rises to 64

Apr 12, 2020 05:58AM ● By Editor
A marquee at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds offers encouraging words on Saturday.
Photo: Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - April 12, 2020

The Minnesota Department of Health reported Saturday that the COVID-19 death toll in Minnesota has increased to 64, while the total number of confirmed cases has increased to 1,427.

That's up from 57 deaths and 1,336 confirmed cases on Friday.

However, health officials believe that the limited testing for COVID-19 could be identifying as few as 1 percent of all cases.

“Multiply the confirmed cases by 100,” Stefan Gildemeister, the state’s health economist, said Friday. “That’s where we expect to be.” That puts the high estimate at 133,600 cases in the state.

Gildemeister said officials arrived at that estimate by looking at the number of reported deaths from COVID-19, which are much more noticeable than the number of cases, then working backward to estimate “how many infected patients does it really take” to get that number of deaths.

Thousands of Minnesotans experiencing flu-like symptomshaven't been able to get COVID-19 tests amid a national shortage of testing materials.

More of the latest coronavirus statistics from Saturday:

  • 35,404 tests completed

  • 340 total hospitalizations

  • 145 people remain in the hospital; 69 in ICUs

  • 793 patients recovered

Of the seven deaths reported Saturday, all were people in their 80s or 90s. Three were from Hennepin County, and one each from Nicollet, Ramsey, Winona and Wright counties. 

Becker County reported its first confirmed coronavirus case Saturday; cases have now been confirmed in 67 of Minnesota’s 87 counties — though again, officials have said the virus is certainly more widespread in the state.

State officials said 14 percent of the confirmed cases were health care workers; 19 percent of cases were linked to congregate care settings — either staff members or residents. The state reports more than 50 congregate care facilities with more than 10 beds in Minnesota have reported at least one case of coronavirus among residents, staff or contractors.

Meanwhile, the state Senate's top Republican, Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, continued his criticism this week of Gov. Tim Walz's stay-at-home order extension to May 4 and the overall scope of the governor's plans to expand hospital facilities prior to an expected COVID-19 surge.

On Friday, Gazelka's criticism focused on central Minnesota businesses' worries over the order’s long-term economic damage.

“The resorts are scared because prior to this three-and-a-half additional weeks they were scared about the money not coming in, and now they're very, very concerned," he said.

Walz is standing by his decisions.

“I'm tired of this. I’m frustrated by this. My heart breaks for the people who are worried about their economic well-being,” the governor said Thursday. “But you can’t get frustrated, go on a hunch and throw caution to the wind and pretend that our neighbors’ lives are somehow disposable.”

Developments from around the state

Two police officers wearing masks and gloves
Two Brooklyn Park police officers stand outside a home during a welfare check on Monday.
Chris Juhn for MPR News

Walz signs order allowing addresses of confirmed COVID-19 cases to be shared with first responders

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Friday signed an executive order directing the state Department of Health to develop a protocol for sharing information about confirmed COVID-19 cases with first responders.

Walz's order allows for the addresses where a COVID-19 case has been identified — and only where a patient is still contagious — to be disclosed to 911 dispatchers and first responders. Names of affected individuals and other identifying information will not be provided to local officials.

Walz wrote in his order that first responders need to assume everyone they meet could be a coronavirus carrier — but the order allows for more protection.

"This decision is not taken lightly," Walz wrote in the order. "We must ensure that this health information is disclosed only to those who have an emergent need to know it, and we must implement safeguards to ensure that no one abuses this data. Minnesota has a strong tradition of protecting the private data of its citizens. This is reflected in the penalties imposed for unlawful use of private data provided by the (Minnesota Government Data Practices Act), which will continue to apply to the data shared under this Executive Order."

The order mandates that "the shared data must remain confidential, be encrypted in transit, (and be) provided only to the minimum number of people necessary." 

Congressman Pete Stauber of Minnesota's 8th District, a retired police officer, was among those who had backed such an order. 

"As we continue to wage war against COVID-19, it is only right that the law enforcement officers, first responders, and firefighters on the front lines of this fight have all the information they need to protect and prepare themselves," he said in a news release.

— MPR News staff

Minnesota DNR closes Grand Portage State Park

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has temporarily closed Grand Portage State Park in far northeastern Minnesota.

That's at the request of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The park is located on the Grand Portage Reservation.

The closure is in effect until at least May 4.

Meanwhile much of Fort Snelling State Park in the Twin Cities is closed due to flooding along the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers.

Other state parks remain open for day use, but state park campgrounds, lodging and visitor centers are closed because of COVID-19.

— MPR News staff

Sheltering in place, surrounded by floodwaters

National Guard soldiers are walking levees this weekend in the northwestern Minnesota community of Oslo, where the Red River is expected to reach a flood crest just below record levels.

Oslo is surrounded by a ring levee, and now by miles of water that covers all roads into the community. Mayor Erika Martens said about 220 people are sheltering in place. 

"We feel safe, we're good. We don't panic," she said. "This is not something new for us."

What is new this year is the fear of COVID-19. Martens said floods are usually a time when the community comes together. 

State Highway 220 near Oslo Minn remains closed by flood waters
Spring flooding frequently closes the roads to and from Oslo, Minn. This view from April 2019 shows State Highway 220 north of Oslo.
Courtesy of MnDOT 2019

"Where you get to know people in town that you typically wouldn't, and you see the new people and you get together — and there's none of that," she said. "No church, no nothing. It's tough. This year's tough."

Martens said the Guard brings mail and supplies in over flooded roads. 

"We couldn't do it without them, especially this year. Usually we have quite a few volunteers to walk the levees just to make sure, check things out. We don't have any of that this year," she said. "Nobody wants to come out, and you can't blame them."

The floodwaters are forecast to slowly recede in the coming week.

— Dan Gunderson | MPR News

Distilleries around MN step up to help supply hand sanitizer

Several distilleries around Minnesota have shifted their production to making hand sanitizer during the coronavirus crisis. Vikre Distillery in Duluth is one of several in the state making hand sanitizer to help supply the much-needed product.

The Duluth distillery on Friday finished making an 8,000-gallon batch. Co-owner Joel Vikre said after they ran out of the first 1,000 gallons, institutions like hospitals and police departments told his staff they needed a lot more. 

“We just created an order form to get the sense of what the demand would be, and it kind of went nuts,” Vikre said. “The thing that strikes me is a crisis happens, and the normal supply chains, they break down surprisingly easily."

Friday morning, a line of people waiting to fill up bottles with sanitizer stretched for nearly three blocks. Vikre said they should have enough to distribute for several more days.

11 Wells Spirits in St. Paul is planning to give away hand sanitizer for personal use from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday; find details on their Facebook page.

— Dan Kraker | MPR News

Edina Art Fair rescheduled for August

The Edina Art Fair, usually Minnesota's first major art fair of the season, is moving to August because of the new coronavirus. 

The art fair, which can attract some 300,000 visitors, will now run from Aug. 21-23. 

Organizers of the event say that almost all of the 280 artists scheduled for the original date in early June are still planning to be there. 

— Euan Kerr | MPR News

Top headlines

Hospitals cut pay, furlough workers to ease COVID-19 financial blow: Across the state, hospitals are making cost-cutting measures to shoulder the blow of a temporary ban on elective surgeries and procedures. Together, hospitals are predicting a $3 billion loss over the next three months. The state’s largest private employer Mayo Clinic is instituting across the board pay cuts and furloughs to shoulder a projected $3 billion loss this year.

3M says a New Jersey company is price gouging New York officials over N95 masks: 3M has sued a New Jersey firm that allegedly engaged in extreme price gouging for N95 respirator masks that can prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Minneapolis officials say too many are ignoring posted virus signs: City officials may get tougher on people who ignore social distancing rules. However, Minneapolis police are not eager to issue fines.

Grocery stores step up safety measures amid COVID-19 outbreak: Minnesota grocers have deployed plastic screens between customers and cashiers, equipped employees with gloves, hand sanitizer and face masks, marked floors to show customers where to stand, and limited how many shoppers can be in a store.

COVID-19 in Minnesota

Health officials for weeks have been increasingly raising the alarm over the spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States. The disease is transmitted through respiratory droplets, coughs and sneezes, similar to the way the flu can spread.

To read more COVID-19 reporting,, follow this link to the MPR News website.

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