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Live updates: Minnesota confirms first COVID-19 death

Here's what you need to know about the fight to slow the spread of coronavirus in our area.

Sunday, March 22

2:00 p.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health updated the COVID-19 situation in Minnesota with its daily conference call with reporters.

Health officials say the number of positive coronavirus cases in the state has risen from 137 to 169, which includes one death.

Seventeen COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized and 10 people are currently hospitalized.

Five people are in intensive care, while the vast amount of patients are resting at home, according to MDH's infectious disease specialist, Kris Ehresmann.

The age range is 10-years-old to 94 for the patients. Ehresmann said just two cases are under 20-years-old.

The Mayo Clinic's expansion of COVID-19 testing has helped eliminate the testing backlog in Minnesota.

Ehresmann said health officials have a request for people with dental emergencies to stop going to emergency rooms and contact their dentists. She also said dentists need to provide emergency care for their patients.

Ehresmann also brought up the giant need for blood donations right now. 

11:00 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health announced that the number of positive coronavirus cases in the state has risen from 137 to 169. 

Health officials say there has been one death due to COVID-19 in the state and 4,680 lab tests have been processed.

Saturday, March 21

6:30 p.m.

Governor Tim Walz has authorized the Minnesota National Guard to assist during his declared peacetime emergency by signing executive order 20-13. 

The Minnesota National Guard has been mobilized to transport vital personal protective equipment (PPE) - in storage at Camp Ripley in Morrison County - to the Minnesota Department of Health warehouse located in St. Paul.

Walz's order is an effort to address the "critically low supply of PPE in Minnesota’s hospitals and health care facilities, as well as the delivery delays from the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile."

“In times of need, Minnesotans pull together to make sure we have the resources and supplies we need to get through challenges,” says Governor Walz. “Minnesota’s hospitals, health care facilities, and first responders are in desperate need of personal protective equipment, and I’m grateful to have the Minnesota National Guard’s partnership in delivering these supplies for Minnesotans.”

3:00 p.m.

Governor Tim Walz announced on Saturday that his administration is moving to allow small Minnesota businesses to become eligible for disaster assistance via the Small Business Administration (SBA) for "economic injury during the COVID-19 pandemic."

“Small businesses across Minnesota are putting the health of their neighbors before their bottom line,” Governor Walz said. “This assistance will help our state’s businesses recover from the economic hardship caused by COVID-19.”

The governor's office says that the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program can provide working capital loans up to $2 million.

Businesses can apply for these loans on this website.

1:45 p.m.

Wisconsin officials are reporting another death from coronavirus as the number of total presumptive cases has risen to 281.

The Wisconsin Department of Health released the most recent statistics Saturday afternoon, which include four total deaths because of the coronavirus statewide. Officials also say they've tested 4,909 people with 281 testing positive.

11:30 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported Saturday that a Ramsey County resident in their 80s died Thursday, March 19 after recently testing positive for COVID-19 coronavirus.

According to officials, the person contracted the virus through contact with another COVID-19 case.

“Gwen and I extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones during this time of loss,” said Governor Tim Walz, in a statement. “As COVID-19 continues to spread in Minnesota, we must all do what we can to keep each other safe.”

In its daily update, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) confirmed Saturday that there are now 138 total cases of coronavirus in the state, including the first reported case in St. Louis County.

10:00 a.m.

Adhering to what it calls a top priority, Hennepin County has been working to ensure Minnesota's homeless population is afforded alternative accommodations for those especially at risk for contracting COVID-19. 

The county reports that 130 homeless individuals were relocated out of shelter settings and into area hotels on Friday.  

Currently, the county is not reporting any positive cases of individuals with COVID-19 within the Hennepin County shelter system. 

On Tuesday, The Hennepin County Board says it had previously approved $3 million in aid to help address the issue of relocating homeless individuals living within the county. 

Friday, March 20

3 p.m.

Governor Tim Walz met with the media Friday afternoon after signing three executive orders dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, including one that makes price gouging illegal in Minnesota. 

Walz was joined by the top health and emergency officials in the state of Minnesota, with the governor referring to the briefing as part of a new "battle rhythm," an attempt to provide state residents with the most current information and the best data about the coronavirus pandemic.

"We’re about a week into this when things started to change relatively dramatically," Walz said. "If we do this right and we do this aggressively we come out of this keeping people safe as much as we can."

The Minnesota Department of Health offered an update, saying that two of the 26 new cases announced Friday are in the ICU. There have now been 15 suspected community transmissions of coronavirus, and eight hospitalizations. Minnesota has not reported any deaths.

Walz addressed questions about the possibility of a "shelter in place" mandate, as California and Illinois have issued in the past 24 hours.

"We are looking at the data, we are trying to get it as transparently and as real time out to you, making the best informed decisions that will have an impact on flattening the curve," Walz said.

He pointed out that he didn't cancel schools until he had a plan in place for meals and day care, and he didn't close bars and restaurants until he had loosened the requirements for unemployment.

"So I can tell you this, that I at this point in time am not prepared to make that, but I am prepared at some time in the future if it becomes necessary with the data and where we’re at, to make that decision," he said.

Walz also announced Friday that the state is partnering with the YMCA to provide care for the K-6th grade children of essential employees like educators, grocery store workers, utility workers, and essential state and local government staff.

Thirty-eight YMCA sites will provide this service 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, starting March 23. They will offer care in accordance with social distancing guidelines from the Minnesota department of Health and the CDC.

Walz addressed concerns about testing materials and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers. He said they are attempting to work with the federal government on this but "If we need to, let’s start manufacturing here."

Walz said FEMA, now the lead agency for Minnesota's COVID-19 response, is also working to help with supply chain issues.

"We are gonna leave no stone unturned trying to find the shortest supply line for the things that Minnesotans and our health care system need," added Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly.

RELATED: Minnesota narrows coronavirus testing criteria, health care workers now among positive

RELATED: Hospitals seek help from public, politicians in face of equipment shortage

As far as concerns about limited capacity to test for coronavirus, Walz said that the Mayo Clinic has already been helping MDH and was able to help them cut down their backlog of specimens to 1,291 from over 1,700 previously reported. Walz also announced that the U of M Fairview is also now starting to help test.

Walz said the state government is prioritizing public-private partnerships in the fight against COVID-19 and that businesses are stepping up. He mentioned the Mall of America as a large space that could potentially be used for as-yet unspecified purposes.

The state's unemployment applications have hit record numbers since Walz ordered bars and restaurants to close their dine-in services.

As of 8 p.m. Thursday, state officials say they've received over 95,000 applications. The previous record was 18,000. About one-third came from the restaurants, bars and entertainment sphere, and 85% had never been on unemployment.

Officials also confirmed that with schools closed, Minnesota is seeking a waiver on federal testing requirements.

Walz ended his news conference by encouraging people to join the campaign #StayHomeMinnesota.

"We’re entering a new phase, we're watching it accelerate in other parts of the country, but we've got professionals here using those lessons to apply here in Minnesota to our own expertise to keep people safe," Walz said.

2 p.m.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz issued three executive orders on Friday as part of the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Order 20-10 forbids price gouging during the current peacetime emergency. It is a direct response to reports of businesses and individuals jacking up the prices of essential goods necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

KARE 11 Investigates recently responded to a flood of viewer complaints about price gouging, and discovered it actually is not illegal in Minnesota and 15 other states. 

There is currently a bill being introduced in the Minnesota House that would make price gouging illegal.

This prohibition takes effect on Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 5 p.m. Individuals found to be in violation are subject to investigation and enforcement by the Attorney General’s office. This executive order brings Minnesota, which does not have a statute on price gouging, in line with most other states in the United States.

Besides the one on price gouging, Walz signed two executive orders meant to ensure that critical services continue for Minnesota's most vulnerable residents.

Executive Order 20-11 authorizes the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) to seek federal authority to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements for federal programs, including but not limited to the Minnesota Family Investment Program, Medical Assistance, and MinnesotaCare, to ensure these programs continue providing support to Minnesota families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Order 20-12 allows DHS to temporarily issue waivers or modifications to state requirements to ensure that their services can be delivered to Minnesotans safely and without undue delay, protecting vulnerable Minnesotans and those who care for them. DHS provides health care coverage, programs, and services for over 1 million Minnesotans, including groups likely to be significantly impacted by COVID-19 such as older adults, individuals who have disabilities, families with children, and individuals with mental illness.

2 p.m.

Wisconsin announced that its positive test results for coronavirus have risen to 206 from 155 the day before, and the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner announced a third death in the state.

11 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported 26 new presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in the state on Friday.

That means the state has 115 official cases, up from 89 reported on Thursday. MDH says it has tested 3,856 patients at its public health lab. MDH has warned that the number of confirmed cases is the "tip of the iceberg" due to testing limitations. They believe the virus is circulating broadly in the state.

Chisago and Fillmore Counties saw their first cases announced on Friday. The total list of counties with confirmed cases is now Anoka, Benton, Blue Earth, Carver, Chisago, Clay, Dakota, Fillmore, Hennepin, Martin, Mower, Nicollet, Olmsted, Ramsey, Renville, Rice, Scott, Stearns, Waseca, Washington and Wright.

MDH is expected to hold a joint news conference with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz at 2 p.m. on Friday.

Thursday, March 19

7:30 p.m.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers confirmed the first two deaths in the state from the coronavirus. According to the Associated Press, Evers said that a man in his 50s from Fond du Lac County and a man in his 90s from Ozaukee County had died. No other details were reported.

“Our hearts go out to all the loved ones affected by these deaths, and to all those suffering from this virus,” Evers said in a statement. “We are committed to fighting the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin and I want to recognize the hard work and bravery of our nurses, doctors, state health officials, and all those on the front lines in the effort to save lives. Together we will get through this historic health challenge.”

The state Department of Health Services reported earlier Thursday that 155 had the virus in 21 counties.

4 p.m.

The Minneapolis City Council passed two resolutions approving and extending Mayor Jacob Frey’s declaration of a local public health emergency in response to the coronavirus.

According to a news release, the emergency declaration will remain in effect for as long as the state remains in a peacetime emergency, unless determined otherwise by an official action of the city council.

The council affirms “support in prioritizing the health and well-being of all residents, especially those residents who are most vulnerable to health impacts from COVID-19.” It calls on Mayor Frey to use a racial equity lens in all aspects of Minneapolis' COVID-19 response and mitigation efforts and submit recommendations to the Council on the following:

  • Priorities for outreach to non-English speaking residents and businesses.
  • Policy actions to support housing stability, including a moratorium on evictions and continued water and utility access.
  • Regulatory actions that support small businesses and their workers.
  • Prioritization of city funds for gaps left in government and philanthropic efforts focused on health supports for people without access to public hygiene facilities, and support for residents or business most vulnerable to economic impacts.
  • Support for the health and well-being of city staff as they serve the public during this emergency.

2 p.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says there is community spread of the coronavirus in the following counties: Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota and Martin.

The total number of cases statewide is 89, up from 77 on March 18. There are four new cases in Hennepin County, one in Rice County, one in Carver County, one in Clay County, three in Anoka, one in Martin County and one in Mower County.

Originally, MDH reported a new case was in Wadena County, but in fact it was in Clay County.

The total age range of cases is 17-94. There are no cases in children at this time.

The number of confirmed cases is made up of those who tested positive in a laboratory setting, and MDH's Kris Ehresmann describes it as "the tip of the iceberg." MDH believes there is COVID-19 spread that has not been identified within the laboratory system.

Ehresmann said that despite community spread being identified in certain counties, the spread should be considered statewide regardless. While it may be helpful to note those four counties, officials want to be very cautious in not suggesting those are the only places in the state with community transmission. 

1 p.m.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has issued an emergency executive order to postpone elective surgeries.

"COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are rapidly increasing and risk overwhelming the healthcare system," Walz said in his order. He cited the CDC's recommendation to postpone such procedures, and said that doing so will help preserve critical personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers, as well as decrease unnecessary patient-to-provider contact.

Beginning March 23 at 5 p.m., "all non-essential or elective surgeries and procedures, including non-emergent or elective dental care, that utilize PPE or ventilators must be postponed indefinitely."

Examples of circumstances where surgeries could still be performed include:

  • Threat to the patient’s life if surgery or procedure is not performed.
  • Threat of permanent dysfunction of an extremity or organ system, including teeth and jaws.
  • Risk of metastasis or progression of staging.

The order extends until the governor's peacetime emergency declaration is lifted.

11 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health says the state has identified 12 more presumptive positive cases of coronavirus, up to 89 from 77 the day before.

MDH has emphasized that the case numbers they are providing do not represent the total, since tests are limited and they know there is "community spread."

The new counties that saw their first positive tests Thursday are Mower and Rice. The total counties with positive cases are now Anoka, Benton, Blue Earth, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Martin, Mower, Nicollet, Olmsted, Ramsey, Renville, Rice, Scott, Stearns, Waseca, Washington and Wright.

The MDH had previous identified six cases of "community transmission." They may offer more information about the new cases in Thursday's daily briefing call, expected at 1 p.m.

Wednesday, March 18 

8:30 p.m.

Governor Tim Walz signed an order clarifying the types of businesses and places of public accommodation subject to closure per Executive Order 20-04. The executive order clarifies that the closure order applies to salons, barbershops, and other similar establishments.

3:40 p.m.

Governor Tim Walz spoke to Minnesotans anxious about the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday afternoon, saying "we’re all in this together."

"We are in uncharted waters but as the saying goes, we’re rowing that boat together in Minnesota," Walz said.

The governor announced that he has signed three new executive orders. 

  • The first is to protect people in veteran homes by restricting all visitors and non-essential personnel except for end of life care. 
  • The second is to provide emergency relief for regulations on motor carriers and drivers. This is to ensure the food supply remains stable.
  • The third is for paid leave for all state employees who are unable to work.

Walz also said that a chartered airplane from the Myanmar air base brought back 32 Minnesotans who were on the quarantined Grand Princess cruise ship, after they were cleared by federal authorities. Metro Transit volunteers are driving them to their homes to self-quarantine.

In response to questions about limited supplies to adminster coronavirus tests in Minnesota, Walz said that a shift by the federal government to prioritize the worst hit locations has “completely dried up” Minnesota’s capacity to test. Walz said he is very concerned, an opposite response from the Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director earlier Wednesday.

Walz also noted that MDH has had to freeze 1,700 samples due to a backlog in testing.

MDH has stressed that people staying home when they're sick is much more important than testing everyone to confirm whether they have COVID-19.

Walz echoed the call from MDH to practice social distancing and stay home when sick, acknowledging that the timeframe is unknown.

"We need to hunker down," he said. "It’s gonna be a little longer haul."

Walz said officials are working on changing protocols for expired licenses and tabs. The change is expected to be announced in the coming days. “You are not going to get a ticket for driving with an expired license at this time,” Walz said.

By declaring a "peacetime emergency" last week, the governor made it possible to call out the National Guard for assistance. 

"We are planning for them in all situations," and they are looking for ways they can assist, Walz said Wednesday.

"I know that the stress that has been put on Minnesotans, that has been put on families, that has been put on business owners is unprecedented," Walz said. "I think for many of us of a certain age, the sustained changes that are coming in our society have not been seen since World War II. And the state of Minnesota is moving together to make sure first and foremost we protect our citizens, we protect our families and our neighbors, and we think about what the future looks like by making good decisions with the data that we have available."

3 p.m.

COVID-19 has reached the Minnesota Capitol, according to an email sent out on Wednesday.

The Director of HR for the Minnesota House sent out a message saying that someone who works for the House has a presumptive positive case.

"It is possible that employees working at the State Office Building and the Capitol may have been exposed," the email said. "While we understand your interest in knowing as many details as possible, we cannot share nor discuss individual personal health information."

The email informed staff and lawmakers that HR will reach out to anyone who was identified as having contact with the person. 

House Speaker Melissa Hortman forwarded the email and issued a statement saying, "The Minnesota House of Representatives is continuing to follow the guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health to keep legislators, staff, and the public safe as we do our work to respond to this pandemic. We ask that anyone with questions contact the MDH hotline and not members or staff of the House."

2:40 p.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported in its daily briefing that there are now six community transmissions of coronavirus in Minnesota, up from three previously reported.

In terms of total presumptive positive cases of the virus, Minnesota stands at 77, up from 60 on Tuesday.

The age range of the 17 new cases is 21-71. The age range of the collective cases is 17-94, with a median age of 50. A total of seven people have been hospitalized at some point but four have now been released. There are no deaths reported thus far. One patient remains in critical condition.

In response to questions about limited testing, MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann emphasized that whether or not people qualify to be tested, the recommendations are the same. Stay home when sick with a fever or respiratory symptoms for at least seven days, and for three days after the fever goes away. Other people in the household are asked to isolate themselves for 14 days to monitor for symptoms.

Because MDH is only testing hospitalized patients, health care workers and people in group living settings like nursing homes for COVID-19, Ehresmann urged employers not to require a positive test to allow employees to stay home.

"Employers should not be requiring confirmation of COVID-19 to allow their employees to have sick time," she said. "We cannot have that.... We need people to stay home when they’re sick regardless of whether they’re able to have a test result.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin's Department of Health Services reports 106 total positive cases as of March 18, up from 72 the day before. Nearly 1,600 tests have come back negative. State health officials say Wisconsin clinicians can order tests without public health approval and since tests are now widely available, they will no longer report the number of people under investigation.

Milwaukee County has the most cases with 47, followed by Dane County with 23 and Fond du Lac County with 12. 

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has ordered no gatherings of more than 10 people starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, citing evidence of community transmission in Milwaukee, Dane and Kenosha Counties.

1 p.m.

The Minnesota Council on Foundations and the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation launched a disaster recovery fund of $4.4 million that will provide grants to local community foundations to support recovery amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

12 p.m.
KARE 11 reporter Kent Erdahl tweeted: "Insight for Minnesotans from President's newser: Feds now say it's prioritizing counties with 50+ cases when it comes to tests. Helps explain why @mnhealth is forced to scale beck due to limited supplies."

11 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports that there are now 77 positive tests of coronavirus in the state, up from 60 the day before. The counties that have cases are Anoka, Benton, Blue Earth, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Martin, Nicollet, Olmsted, Ramsey, Renville, Scott, Stearns, Waseca, Washington and Wright.

For Martin, Nicollet and Scott County, Wednesday's report marked the first cases confirmed in those counties.

MDH may provide more information on the cases in their daily briefing Wednesday afternoon.

9 a.m.

Families across the state woke up to their first day of canceled classes for all Minnesota schools Wednesday morning.

Although some districts shut their doors on Monday, Wednesday is the first day schools were officially ordered to close by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

Some schools have come out with plans to feed students during this difficult time. Some local restaurants have also stepped up.

Bars and restaurants were also closed starting 5 p.m. Tuesday, after an executive order from Walz. Drive-thru and takeout are still available.

As of the last update from Minnesota Department of Health, there were 60 cases of coronavirus in the state. MDH has also moved to narrow its testing criteria for the virus, in the face of a "limited supply" of testing materials. It is prioritizing hospitalized patients, health care workers and people in settings like nursing homes or group homes.

As of Tuesday, MDH had confirmed that 13 people who work in health care settings had tested positive for coronavirus. That news comes as health care workers across the state say they're concerned about running out of protective equipment.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services had reported 72 cases in the state as of Tuesday.

Updates from both states are expected Wednesday.

State and federal health officials continue to ask people to practice "social distancing" by staying 6 feet away from others, keeping groups as small as they can, working from home if possible, and staying home if they are sick.

The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. MDH also posts regular updates here, and Wisconsin posts updated numbers on the DHS website.

Tuesday, March 17, 9 p.m. 

The Minnesota Board of Cosmetology is telling salons and spas across the state that it's time to close.

"We’ve received guidance that hair salons, nail salons, and other spa-like businesses are included in the Governor’s Executive Order yesterday (Monday) and should be closed now through 5 pm on Friday, March 27," read a post on the board's web page. 

The post was referring to the executive order issued by Gov. Tim Walz mandating the closure of restaurants and bars across the state starting Tuesday at 5 p.m.

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