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Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Hospitalizations, ICU cases drop

Jun 08, 2020 05:42AM ● By Editor
Photo: MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - June 8, 2020

The number of completed COVID-19 tests in Minnesota exceeded 10,000 for the fourth consecutive day Sunday, while the numbers of people hospitalized and in ICUs continued to fall. 

The number of people people hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped to 450, with 199 of them in ICUs — the first time that number has dropped below 200 since May 13.

Thirteen of the 16 deaths reported Sunday were people who had been living in long-term care facilities. Nearly 23,000 people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Minnesota have recovered to the point where they no longer need to be isolated.

State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm indicated last week that the recent patterns of cases and hospitalizations in Minnesota are showing “a plateau with small waves within in,” calling it an “encouragingly stable” situation. 

“Statewide, we're in good shape for critical care capacity,” she added.

She cautioned, though, that the protests over George Floyd’s killing may have boosted the disease spread. It will take a few weeks to find out. But she expressed confidence that the state was positioned to handle the pandemic without it overwhelming the case system.

Here are the latest coronavirus statistics:

  • 27,886 cases confirmed via 344,203 tests

  • 1,186 deaths

  • 3,367 cases requiring hospitalization

  • 450 people remain hospitalized; 199 in intensive care

  • 22,992 patients no longer needing isolation

More openings coming Wednesday

Last week, Gov. Tim Walz announced a further loosening of restrictions on businesses and other aspects of society during the coronavirus pandemic beginning Wednesday. 

Among the changes:

  • Indoor restaurant and bar service and personal services can open at 50 percent capacity with a 250-person limit

  • Places of worship can also hold services at 50 percent capacity with a 250-person limit

  • Entertainment venues can open 25 percent capacity with a 250-person limit

  • Personal care services, including salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors, can work indoors at 50 percent capacity

  • Gyms, yoga studio and fitness centers can reopen 25 percent capacity with a 250-person limit

But officials continued their plea to Minnesotans to continue staying 6 feet apart, wear masks and stay home if you feel ill.

“We are not going back to normal,” cautioned Steve Grove, commissioner of employment and economic development as he praised businesses for the sacrifices they’ve made in the COVID-19 era. “We’re continuing to ask for personal responsibility in the next phase.”

Meatpacking hot spots remain

Many of the 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 15 people have tested positive for COVID-19. In mid-April, there were just a handful of cases. By Sunday, there were 1,592 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 reopenedwith 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 — skyrocketed in May.

An undisclosed number of workers at both plants have tested positive for the virus. There were about 55 confirmed cases in Stearns County in early May. By Sunday, confirmed cases were at 2,070 with 16 deaths.

Kandiyohi County in west-central Minnesota is also seeing cases continue to climb more than a month 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 then.

On Sunday, the Health Department reported 521 people have now tested positive in the county. 

While the counts in those counties are high relative to their population, officials say the growth in new cases in those areas appears to be stabilizing.

Mower County in southern Minnesota, another county with a large meatpacking presence, is becoming a hot spot. 

Mower County has jumped the past few weeks, reporting a total of 504 positive COVID-19 cases now with two deaths as of Sunday. The Rochester, Minn., Post-Bulletin reports two meat plants in Austin, Minn., are seeing COVID-19 cases rise rapidly.

Developments from around the state

Outbreak reported at Faribault prison

The Minnesota Department of Corrections reported Friday that it learned of more than 50 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the previous 24 hours at its facility in Faribault, Minn. 

The department said Friday that all inmates who tested positive are either asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms.

The facility houses more than 1,800 people. To contain the outbreak, meals are being delivered to living units, programming has been postponed and opportunities for socializing are being limited. The corrections department said those who have tested positive are being isolated per Department of Health protocols. 

Authorities said they're conducting COVID-19 testing for all inmates statewide.

— MPR News staff

Beware of contact-tracing scams, MN officials warn

The state is warning Minnesotans to be on alert for text scams related to contact tracing of COVID-19.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers are targeting people via text, saying that someone they know has tested positive for coronavirus and that they should click on a link for more information.

Some texts ask people to download software on to their phone, while others seek information like Social Security numbers and banking information. 

Contact tracing is the practice of figuring out who someone who has tested positive for coronavirus has been in contact with. It's a strategy meant to mitigate the spread of the virus.

The state is encouraging people who get these texts to report them to the FBI.

— Catharine Richert | MPR News

U of M study: Hydroxychloroquine can’t prevent coronavirus infection

A new University of Minnesota study shows hydroxychloroquine is not able to prevent the development of COVID-19 better than a placebo. 

The results of the first randomized clinical trial of the drug will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers also found that 40 percent of the trial participants taking hydroxychloroquine developed nonserious side effects like nausea and diarrhea. 

However, the trial found no cardiac complications from taking the drug, which is typically used for lupus. 

The trial included 821 people in the United States and in Canada who had been exposed to someone with the virus, either members of their household or in their work as a health care worker or first responder. 

President Donald Trump has touted the drug as a treatment for coronavirus, despite warnings from medical professionals that there was no research to back up his claims.

— Catharine Richert | MPR News

To read the original stories and see more related COVID-19 reporting, follow this link to the MPR News website.

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