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Live updates: Gov. Walz urges coronavirus precautions ahead of Labor Day weekend

Here are the latest updates on the COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Thursday, Sept. 3

  • Gov. Walz: Minnesota at a potential "tipping point" on COVID-19
  • 47 Minnesota counties fall under in-person learning guidance
  • MDH says new cases reported Thursday top 1,000, including a backlog of previous cases
  • 50 cases and one death linked to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

3:15 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz and state health officials urged Minnesotans to continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 over Labor Day weekend, particularly at private gatherings.

"In any other year but 2020 ... we'd be at the State Fair, doing the things we love so much," Gov. Walz said at news conference Thursday. "But in COVID-19, many, many things have changed."

The governor and health officials noted the approximate 5% case positivity rate in Minnesota is "relatively manageable," but has been creeping up slowly.

"Six months ago it was my hope we'd back to all the things we talked about," Walz said. "The virus has not allowed us to do that, and we have to remain vigilant."

Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) commissioner Jan Malcolm noted concerns expressed by White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx during a weekend visit, saying private social activity appears to be contributing the spread of COVID-19 cases in the state.

"We're heading into Labor Day at this high level," Malcolm said, noting positivity rates during the July 4 holiday were lower at 4.3%. "We just want Minnesotans to be aware that there is risk in this situation. The virus is all over the state, the outbreaks are happening all over the state. We just want people to be vigilant."

Malcolm noted many cases are coming from a variety of both indoor and outdoor informal gatherings, where people are spending extended periods of time in close contact, often in situations where masks and distancing guidelines are not being followed.

MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann gave examples of two events that have concerned health officials. One was an indoor wedding in southwestern Minnesota which exceeded state guidelines for capacity and social distancing, with 275 guests who were not wearing masks. Ehresmann said there have been 56 COVID-19 cases tied to the wedding so far, and the number may be higher, but she said some people are choosing not to get tested to avoid driving up positive case numbers.

"By failing to acknowledge a problem you don't make that problem go away, you make it worse," Ehresmann said. "People who don't get tested for COVID because they're fearful of the impact for themselves, or their school or their community, in reality are making the problem worse, allowing the virus to spread undetected in their community, which prolongs the outbreak and rolls the dice with lives of people around them."

Ehresmann also noted the recent Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, which has been linked to 50 COVID-19 cases and one death in Minnesota so far. Ehresmann said at least one of those positive patients later attended a wedding and potentially exposed others.

Ehresmann said that while outdoor events can reduce risk compared to indoor events due to airflow and other factors, that doesn't mean mitigation should stop, since the risk of COVID transmission still exists.

Gov. Walz said he and members of his administration discuss the state's COVID trends and concerns daily, but he currently has no plans to "turn back the dial" on business openings.

"It's not going to be any mandate, it's going to be behavior changes by Minnesotans that get a crimp on this," Gov. Walz said. "We're at a potential tipping point, but we still have an opportunity to push back on that."

Meanwhile, Gov. Walz said he met with Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka prior to the news conference, to discuss their differences in the state's handling of the pandemic, particularly the governor's extended peacetime emergency powers.

"I want the legislature to be a partner in this," Gov. Walz said.

In a letter to the governor sent earlier Thursday, Sen. Gazelka expressed concern that most of the legislative involvement thus far has been limited to receiving briefings from administration officials. 

Gazelka also said he wants to know the criteria that will be used to determine when the peacetime emergency will end. The Minnesota Senate has voted multiple times to end the emergency powers, but the measure failed each time in DFL-controlled House.

12:30 p.m.

Weekly data released by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) shows 47 of Minnesota's 87 counties have COVID-19 case rates low enough for full in-person education under the state's learning model guidance for the school year. All of those counties are in greater Minnesota.

The current data is based on 14-day case rates per 10,000 people by date of specimen collection, from August 9 to 22.

Two counties (Le Sueur and Waseca) had case rates increase high enough to move into the state's second-highest recommended education restriction tier, which calls for hybrid learning for elementary students and distance learning for secondary students. McLeod County also remains in that category, after rising to that guidance level for the first time last week.

State officials have emphasized that this case data alone does not automatically determine the learning plan for a particular county or school district, but is meant to be used in guidance as the first step in each district's decision-making process.

According to the state's Safe Learning Plan, the county case data leads to five recommended learning models:

  • 0-9 cases per 10,000: In-person learning for all students
  • 10-19 cases per 10,000: In-person learning for elementary students, hybrid learning for secondary students
  • 20-29 cases per 10,000: Hybrid learning for all students
  • 30-49 cases per 10,000: Hybrid learning for elementary students, distance learning for secondary students
  • 50 or more cases per 10,000: Distance learning for all students

No counties currently have COVID-19 case rates serious enough to fall under the guidance for full distance learning.

Hennepin and Ramsey counties currently fall under the state's recommendations for hybrid learning in secondary schools, but in-person learning in elementary schools.

11 a.m.

More than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the state over the past day, according to numbers released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). 

State health officials say the 1,047 new cases are based on results from 13,926 tests processed by private and state labs, and include 264 positive tests added from a backlog. Still, that means 783 new cases diagnosed in the past 24-hour reporting period, and although MDH spokesman Dough Schultz notes that numbers do fluctuate some day to day, he says the department is seeing an overall increasing trend in cases, It's something MDH is watching "very closely."

Seven more Minnesotans have perished from the virus, bringing fatalities in the state to 1,837. Of those deaths 1,348, or 73%, have occurred in long-term or assisted living settings. 

Currently 272 people are being treated for coronavirus in hospitals across the state, 138 of them in ICU. Those numbers continue a slow downturn in the number of patients needing to be hospitalized for COVID-19.

Credit: KARE

MDH says 70,175 people who tested positive for the virus at one time have improved to the point they no longer require isolation. 

Those between the ages of 20 and 24 remain Minnesota's largest group of COVID-19 cases with 10,424 and one death. The next largest demographic is people 25 to 29 with 7,845 cases and three deaths, followed by those 30 to 34 with 7,228 and seven deaths.

People ages 85 to 89 make up the largest group of fatalities with 309, out of just 1,102 diagnosed cases. 

Hennepin County has the most reported coronavirus activity with 23,569 cases and 885 deaths, followed by Ramsey County with 9,396 cases and 299 confirmed deaths. Dakota County reports 6,219 cases and 113 deaths. 

Cook County has the fewest confirmed cases with just six since the start of the pandemic. 

Wednesday, Sept. 2

2 p.m.

There were 16,000 tests in a backlog, which came through Wednesday, MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. Malcolm said tests from the backlog being reported today go back "many months,"

There are 50 cases associated with Sturgis and there was one death. There are situations of secondary spread who got infected by the people who attended Sturgis.

The rumor that children who test positive are being taken from their parents by Child Protective Services is false, MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said. Ehresmann urges people to get their information from reliable sources.

Wednesday, Sept. 2

11 a.m.

Statistics shared by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Wednesday show 761 new cases of COVID-19 across the state. 

Those new cases are based on 27,487 tests processed in private and state labs. While that number seems quite high, MDH spokesperson Andrea Ahneman confirms that the total includes a backlog of nearly 17,000 tests, about 13,500 of them from Valley Medical. The backlogged tests and some that will be reported in the next few days are from Aug. 10 and earlier. 

Ahneman says the other roughly 3,500 backlogged tests added today were from multiple labs, and were due to regular processes for getting labs on board with the MDH system, not a failure to report.

As of Wednesday 77,085 Minnesotans have tested positive for coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. 

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.

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