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Live updates: Minnesotans whose lives were impacted by COVID-19 share their stories

Here are the latest case numbers and trends in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Tuesday, Nov. 17

5:30 p.m.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz's office confirms the governor will address the state at 6 p.m. on Wednesday to announce additional COVID-19 restrictions across the state.
The announcement is expected to include restrictions on bars and restaurants, gyms and fitness centers, social gatherings, and a pause on youth sports.

COVID-19 cases have hit record levels in recent days in Minnesota, and data from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) shows hospitalizations have also reached record levels, with 1,669 total hospitalizations as of Monday, including 346 patients in intensive care beds.

2 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz urged Minnesotans to remember the humanity behind the statistics of people getting infected when considering if they should socialize during the holidays.

Former Republican State Representative Nick Zerwas said he initially thought he had a cold after his son had one, until he started having difficulty breathing and was barely able to stand after walking down a flight of stairs. Zerwas said that he does have a severe heart defect, has undergone multiple open-heart surgeries, and has needed an oxygen level indicator. He spent time in the ICU and his breathing got worse to the point where he needed oxygen support. Zerwas said the virus progressed so fast that he was having an internal debate of whether he would make it out alive if put on a ventilator. Zerwas cited the "amazing care " he received as the reason he has began to recover. "This virus is here, it's spreading rapidly through our community," Zerwas said. "We all have to come together to fight."

Sarah Winston, a mother of a 17-year-old with COVID-19 said her daughter ended up in the ICU after possibly contracting it from a friend. Ella Winston, a dancer who was in excellent physical condition, suffered heart failure and kidney failure. The mother urged people to stay home if they are feeling sick.

Dr. Jon Cole from Hennepin Healthcare said he cancelled travel plans as the pandemic continued to hit. Five days after cancelling, he and his wife developed COVID-19 symptoms and spread it to their children. Cole describes the sickness as a "horrible experience." He said he probably has helped more people by staying home and not going on a trip will having COVID-19 than he has currently while having the privilege of working as a doctor.

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said that her brother had cancer when infected with COVID-19, and had to be buried while everyone was masked up. Flanagan said that those who have underlying conditions still have years to live and the community should not allow COVID to cut those years short. Flanagan urged Minnesotans to skip Thanksgiving gatherings this year so that their table can be full next year.

11 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported 5,945 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. 

This brings the cumulative case count to 236,949 in the state.

Sadly, 26 more Minnesotans died from COVID-19 complications in the last day. 

This brings the total death count to 2,943.

There were 31,729 PCR tests completed and 1,813 antigen tests completed in the last day.

Hospitalizations have climbed to 13,594 since the start of the pandemic with
3,247 of them requiring a stay in the ICU.

A total of 186,680 patients no longer require isolation, according to MDH.

People ages 20 to 24 make up the largest grouping of COVID cases with 27,338 and two deaths.

The largest group of deaths involves Minnesotans between 85 and 89, with 540 deaths in just 2,974 cases.

Hennepin County health officials report the most COVID activity with 52,689 cases and 1,055 fatalities, followed by Ramsey County with 22,160 cases and 434 deaths. Anoka County reports 16,981 cases and 193 deaths.

KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and see what businesses are open as the state slowly lifts restrictions. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

The state of Minnesota has set up a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.

Monday, Nov. 16

  • Minnesota reports 3rd straight day of 7,000-plus cases
  • 62 of 87 counties now under distance learning recommendations
  • Second death reported in a person between ages 20-24
  • Eleven new COVID-19 testing sites to open across Minnesota; mail order testing program now available statewide

2 p.m. 

On Monday, Governor Tim Walz and frontline healthcare workers spoke to Minnesotans about the rapid growth of COVID-19 cases in the state.

“There’s reasons to be hopeful,” he said, referring to recent news regarding vaccines, “but I need to be very clear, we need to get all our neighbors to the end of the tunnel."

Walz went on to express that while he understands some might have concerns about decisions he's made in handling the pandemic, there is no denying that the rates of infection and death in the U.S. are worse than anywhere else in the world, and he called for political unity.

"Our greatest strength has always been here in Minnesota," he said. "We do things very, very well, and we do it because we care about our neighbors. As we enter into-- and we're there-- into the hardest and most dangerous part of the pandemic, before we get to that end of the tunnel, we're going to have to rely on one of the most basic things: we're all in this together. If we continue to mask up, social distance and take mitigation efforts, we reduce pressure on frontline health care workers."

According to MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm, case and hospitalization numbers in Minnesota are "alarming," and she's concerned about the role the holidays might play in case growth.

"As we heard from Dr. Osterholm on Friday, 2020 is our COVID year," she said. "Right now, as we've said, things that were relatively more safe a month ago or even two weeks ago are significantly more risky now. As tempting as it is to stick with cherished traditions, we need people to reconsider and, frankly, not gather with other households, especially if those households include people in a high-risk category."

Any gathering could present a much higher risk than even a couple weeks ago, Malcolm said, and she urged Minnesotans to celebrate only with those in their immediate households.

"Any time you gather with people you don't live with, the risk of infection increases for everyone-- for you, for them and for the broader community," she said. "We know how hard this is, not to be with the people we love. And we know there will be a lot of pushback. But we believe in the next couple of weeks, we're going to tell the story of what happens in late December. We can make a difference, but we have to start right now by changing our behaviors."

Dr. Cuong Pham, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota and a physician at M Health Fairview, said that he is proud of how Minnesotans have been adapting to safe behaviors in the pandemic. But as cold weather sets in, he said Minnesota must continue those behaviors to bend the curve.

"I'm worried about our little hospitals in greater Minnesota with lesser resources," he said. "I'm worried we won't have enough beds to take care of patients without COVID. I'm worried we won't have enough of our awesome nurses and aides." 

He encouraged Minnesotans to find creative ways to celebrate Thanksgiving to avoid creating more community spread across the state.

"Please, let's unite and trust each other," Dr. Pham said. "Let's keep showing the rest of the nation how Minnesotans can unite safely and still have fun."

Kelley Anaas, an intensive care nurse at Abbot Northwestern Hospital, just ended a 32-hour work weekend.

"For nurses, this pandemic has taken an emotional toll," she said. "Up until nine months ago, 'nurse' was my own professional title. Suddenly, I've earned a new title: frontline worker. Personally, I've found this laughable, because it implies there's a second line of us waiting in the wings. Minnesota: we are your only line."  

Anaas said that Minnesotans need to believe nurses when they stress how urgent the situation is, and listen to what they are asking for in support. People are still getting sick and having accidents beyond COVID-19, she said, and health care workers are trying to care for all of these patients while also helping those impacted by the pandemic.

She implored people to stay home, regardless of whether or not they are displaying symptoms.

Walz emphasized that Anaas was right: there is no second line of health care workers in Minnesota.

"We need to put aside past differences, put aside debates about settled science, and buckle down to get through this thing," he said. "To take the pressure off the people who are the only ones who can take care of us." 

When asked about vaccine distribution, Malcolm said that Minnesota has been led to expect three waves of vaccine availability. The first wave would start in late December or early January, and would distribute vaccines to long-term care and acute care workers. The next wave of vaccines would go to higher risk patients, and the third wave, which is not expected until spring or summer of next year, would make the vaccine available to the general population.

There have been a large number of outbreaks associated with sports in Minnesota, according to Ehresmann. Across all age groups, 35 outbreaks have been associated with football, 20 with basketball, 41 with volleyball, 15 with soccer and 46 with hockey. 

Ehresmann added that MDH knows that at least 10% of all cases in schools are related to sports, and in the last week two schools transitioned to distance learning because of COVID-19 exposures from sports.

"We're looking at where the data is, and numbers are moving fairly fast," Malcolm said. "We are urging there to be a pause on play and on practice as well, from our perspective. We're in dialogue right now with our colleagues in education and the high school league, but from a health advice standpoint, we would really like to see sports put on pause."

Walz said there are a lot of people involved in that conversation, and while that possibility is being discussed, no decision has been made yet.

11 a.m.

The surge in new COVID-19 cases continues across Minnesota, with state health officials reporting the third day in a row over the 7,000 mark. 

Numbers released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) show 7,444 people were diagnosed with coronavirus over the last 24 hours, after the department reported 7,559 on Sunday and a single-day high of 8,703 on Saturday. In total, 231,018 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across Minnesota since the pandemic began.

While case numbers are spiking, testing volume is also high. The new cases are based on the results of 51,207 tests processed in private and state labs (49,204  PCR tests, which are confirmed positive, and 2,003 Antigen tests, which are probable positives). 

Governor Tim Walz and front line workers will speak to Minnesotans Monday at 2 p.m., urging them to follow recommended protocols and take pressure off hospitals and health care professionals who are swamped with patients. KARE 11 will carry the press conference live on kare11.com and YouTube. 

Another 12 Minnesotans died from the virus in the past day, bringing the total of fatalities to 2,917. Of those deaths 2,003, or 69% of them, are linked to long-term care or assisted living settings.

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