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Live updates: Health officials emphasize social distancing as regulations loosen in MN

Here are the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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ST PAUL, Minn. — Wednesday, June 24

  • MDH reports 304 additional cases, five new deaths
  • New York City Marathon canceled due to coronavirus
  • MN Zoo opens for drive-thru tours after COVID-19 closure
  • MDH: Low child vaccination numbers could lead to 'tragic consequences'

2 p.m.

Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann is emphasizing the importance of social distancing as the state continues to loosen regulations related to the coronavirus. Ehresmann used an example of a group of individuals who said they visited multiple bars over the weekend of June 12-13, and also work in child care or health care facilities. 

"We want to make sure that, even as we're happily taking advantage of the opening up of bars and restaurants, that people -- even if you're young and even if you feel your personal risk of COVID is low -- that you are continuing to social distance and wear masks if possible," Ehresmann said. "We really want to emphasize this because, obviously the impact may be less for these age groups, but it has the potential to have secondary transmission to other parts of the community and individuals who may be at greater risk."

Ehresmann acknowledged the eagerness of people to socialize given the quarantine and the summer weather, but stressed the importance of social distancing and taking precautions whenever possible.

"You can still be at a bar and have a drink, but you need to make sure that it's not crowded and that you're attentive to the issues of social distancing," she said. "Once you get into a crowded setting, that's where you have the greater opportunity for transmission."

When asked about the outbreak at the Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee where at least 88 people tested positive for COVID-19, Ehresmann said a majority of those cases occurred in May, and they've seen a significant decrease since that time.

"We worked with the facility," Ehresmann said. "We have a workplace team that reached out to them, has worked with them in terms of steps they can take to improve the safety of the workplace for their employees, and they have taken those steps and we've seen a reduction in cases."

Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday that players will be reporting to camp no later than July 1, putting the league on track for a possible start to the season by the end of July. Games will initially be played with no crowds, but the potential to phase in a limited number of people exists, depending on the number of cases over the next few months.

"It certainly is possible," Erhesmann said of crowds at Target Field. "I wouldn't say that it's not possible, but I also think you want to be cautious because, as I said, you're bringing people together and if there's the opportunity for crowding, that's where we really see transmission happening."

11 a.m

For the fourth straight day, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is reporting single-digit deaths due to COVID-19.

MDH reported five additional deaths in the latest 24-hour reporting period, which was released on Wednesday, bringing the total number of statewide fatalities to 1,397. Of those deaths, 1,102, or 79% of them, occurred in long-term or assisted living settings.

MDH reported an additional 304 confirmed cases out of a total 9,547 people who were tested by state and private labs. Minnesota has 33,763 confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began. MDH has processed a total of 529,643 tests since the department started compiling statistics in late January.

Health officials say 340 people are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 160 that require intensive care. A total of 3,897 patients have been hospitalized since the pandemic began. MDH says 29,707 people who at one time tested positive for the coronavirus have now recovered to the point they no longer require isolation.

People between the age of 30 and 39 make up the most positive cases with 6,757, followed closely by people 20 to 29, who have accounted for 6,747 of the total number of COVID-19 cases. People between the age of 80 and 89 account for the most deaths in one age group with 477.

Credit: KARE

Tuesday, June 23

4 p.m.

The Walz administration announced Tuesday The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is now accepting applications from businesses wishing to tap into the $62.5 million Small Business Relief Grants Program signed into law last week.

“COVID-19 has brought historic challenges for our small business owners," Walz said in a statement Tuesday. "This program is a result of bipartisan collaboration and conversations with the communities most impacted by this pandemic. I encourage our small business owners to apply for this funding, which will provide a lifeline for our communities and help Minnesota build a stronger and more equitable economy."

According to an afternoon press release put out by the Governor's office, businesses with 50 or fewer employees are now eligible to apply for grants up to $10,000.

Echoing the governor's sentiment, Lieutenant Governor Flanagan said, “Minnesota’s small business owners deserve support through this unprecedented time. I’m proud of this program to support our historically under-supported communities, including our business owners who are women, veterans, Black, Indigenous, and people of color. But we have a lot of work left to do to rebuild our communities.”

The money is intended to be spread evenly across regions of Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro. The release states at least $10 million will go toward minority-owned businesses, $2.5 million toward veteran-owned businesses and $2.5 million toward female-owned businesses.

The release states by law an additional $2.5 million will be allocated for grants up to $250,000 each to the operators of cultural malls, in order to sustain existing tenants.

The Governor's Office states that applications will be evaluated immediately for a 10-day period ending on July 2 at 5 p.m.  Eligible businesses will be selected using a randomized lottery process in partnership with the Minnesota Lottery - which will then be observed by an independent third party, the release states. 

Grants will be administered by "qualified local and regionally based nonprofit agencies," and can be allocated toward supporting payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility bills, "and other similar business expenses."

Applications and more information can be found on DEED's website

11 a.m.

New numbers released Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reflect another day of single-digit deaths from COVID-19. 

Nine Minnesotans perished from the virus over the last 24-hour reporting period, raising the number of fatalities to 1,393 since the pandemic began. Of those deaths, 1,101, or 79% of them occurred in long-term or assisted living settings. 

MDH says 245 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the past day, elevating the number of confirmed cases to 33,469. Private and state labs processed an additional 7,261 tests, for a total of 520,045 since the department started compiling statistics in late January.

Currently 339 patients are hospitalized with complications from COVID-19, with 158 of them  being cared for in the ICU. A total of 3,860 have been treated in hospitals since the start of the pandemic.

Health officials say Minnesotans continue to recover from the virus, with 29,399 people who at one time tested positive now recovered to the point they no longer require isolation. 

Of those testing positive for the coronavirus, people ages 30 to 39 make up the largest segment with 6,715 cases, followed by those between 20 and 29 who account for 6,629 cases. People from 80 to 89 have tested positive just 1,514 times, but account for 477 of Minnesota's deaths.

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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 companies in Minnesota are hiring. 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 hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.