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Live updates: MDH reports 4 more deaths, MN reaches 503 confirmed cases

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

ST PAUL, Minn. — Sunday, March 29

2:00 p.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health held its daily call with reporters on Sunday afternoon to provide an update on COVID-19 in the state.

MDH Commissioner, Jan Malcolm, said there were four more deaths confirmed to bring the total to nine and there was an increase of 62 cases to bring the total number to 503.

She said three of the four most recent deaths were in Hennepin County and all were in long-term care facilities.

Malcolm said the other death was in Martin County. 

One patient had medical conditions and was in their 50s. The other patients who died were older in age, in their 80s and 90s, Malcolm said.

The MDH laboratory has processed over 7000 tests and private labs have done nearly 10,000 tests.

11:00 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health confirms that the COVID-19 death toll in Minnesota is now at nine and the number of confirmed cases is 503.

More than 17,000 people have been tested.

The MDH also reports that 39 people are hospitalized with the virus.

Health officials say 252 patients no longer need to be isolated.

Saturday, March 28

12:00 p.m.

Governor Tim Walz signed a bill Saturday that would allocate $330 million in COVID-19 aid.

That brings the state's total response to more than $550 million to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The Minnesota Legislature passed the bill on Thursday. 

RELATED: Minnesota Legislature passes $330 million COVID-19 aid bill

The bill includes the following actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that will help Minnesota:

  • Establishes the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund to support further action
  • Creates peacetime emergency child care grants
  • Provides COVID-19 assistance for veterans
  • Supports food shelves and food banks
  • Expands resources for emergency services and homeless shelters
  • Expands support available to small businesses
  • Extends disaster assistance for farmers to include losses due to COVID-19

"The swift, bipartisan passage of the bill is One Minnesota in action," said Governor Walz. "Legislators put aside politics to fight the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of Minnesotans. We're only in the early stages of Minnesota's battle against the COVID-19 pandemic - but this law will help ensure we have the right supports in place to prepare for what's to come."

11:00 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has confirmed another person has died due to COVID-19, which brings the total to five deaths in the state. MDH has identified 43 new coronavirus cases. The total number of cases is 441 as of March 28, which is up from 398 on March 27. MDH says 57 of those cases in total have required hospitalization, and 30 are still hospitalized. There are 220 patients who no longer need to be isolated. Approximately 7,290 of tests have been done by the MDH Public Health Lab and approximately 8,839 have been done by external laboratories. Hennepin County has the most cases at 152.

Friday, March 27

10:00 p.m.

With Gov. Walz's stay at home order about to take effect across Minnesota, a team of dedicated researchers will be looking closely at the impact it might have on public health data. "The hope is that each of these strategies is buying us weeks to months," said Shalini Kulasingam, who is part of a team of researchers with the University of Minnesota School of Public Health who have been working on predictive modeling of the coronavirus. "I'm going to be honest, it's too early to tell (what the data will show), but what I do think is it's buying us time to figure out what's the next step. What are we going to do next in terms of our planning."

Kulasingam said she was encouraged by the Governor's announcement that the state had increased the number of available ventilators. Walz says the state now has 1,268 adult ventilators on hand as the number of severe cases increases. "The consistent message across all of the models is that we have to increase capacity from where we are," Kulasingam said.

5:00 p.m.

Hennepin County confirmed on social media that one of two new COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota announced on Friday was in Hennepin County.

"On behalf of the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the loved ones at this difficult time," said board chair Marion Greene in a statement. "As COVID-19 continues to spread, I thank our communities and residents for doing what we can to keep each other safe, and heeding Gov. Walz’s order to stay home. This is a challenging time. We understand there are fears, concerns and uncertainty. We ask you to help those you can and stay in conversation with friends, family and those who might be vulnerable or alone. We are all in this together."

4:45 p.m.

A sergeant with the St. Paul police department has informed colleagues he has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

In a letter released by SPPD, the sergeant said he was informed that Public Health is not concerned that he might have infected anyone at work, as his last contact with SPPD was on March 11 before leaving for a trip. He reported feeling ill after returning from the trip.

"Please remember how easily this virus infects, even when an individual does not have symptoms. Protect yourself, protect each other, protect your families, and protect the untold thousands of people connected to them," the sergeant wrote in his letter.

3:30 p.m.

Ahead of the 11:59 p.m. implementation of Minnesota's "Stay at Home" order, state officials are reporting two additional deaths from COVID-19.

Gov. Tim Walz said Friday that both deaths were patients in long-term care. Three of Minnesota's four deaths have been in patients in congregate living settings.

Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said a total of 17 congregate care sites have at least one case of coronavirus in a staff or a patient, and MDH is working with each site to try to prevent spread.

Fourteen people in the state are currently in Intensive Care Units (ICU).

The ICU capacity is exactly what the state is trying to expand as they "buy time" by ordering Minnesotans to stay home except for essential activities. According to Walz, 5% of people who contract coronavirus will need ICU care. Those people are 10 times more likely to die from the virus if they do not get that care.

"The state of Minnesota is coming together, we've got our mission and where we're headed," Walz said. "We're working to build out that hospital capacity."

In fact Bethesda, a long-term acute care facility, has already been transformed into a COVID-19 specific treatment facility that can take up to 90 patients. Meanwhile, state officials are working to identify additional alternative sites for care, ramp up testing for coronavirus, and produce or procure more equipment like ventilators and face masks.

The "Stay at Home" order goes into effect Friday, March 27 at 11:59 p.m. and ends April 10. It does not mean that Minnesotans cannot leave their homes. People can still do "essential activities" like go outside for exercise, and go to the store to get groceries and medications. Workers identified as "critical" can also still leave their homes for work.

Here are some resources that may help in navigating this period:

Both Walz and the Department of Public Safety Commissioner have said that they will take an "education" rather than enforcement approach when addressing violations of the order.

As far as license and vehicle tab renewals, Walz said people should do what they can to renew online but refrain from trying to handle anything in person. He said the state will give "leeway" on this.

DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said businesses should use a "common sense" approach. Non-essential businesses are required to work from home, but if someone needs to run to the office to pick something up, reboot a machine or handle payroll, Grove said that's OK.

Answers to frequently asked questions about the "Stay at Home" order can be found on this site set up by the state. Anyone who has questions about whether their work is considered "critical" can fill out the form found here.

11:00 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says 4 people have now died of complications from COVID-19. 

Governor Tim Walz says the two latest deaths both occurred in long term care settings. He did not specify which counties those deaths happened in. 

Coronavirus cases confirmed by positive tests across the state have reached 398, up from the 346 reported Thursday. 

MDH says 51 of those cases in total have required hospitalization, and 34 are still hospitalized. Fourteen were in intensive care as of Friday. There are 180 patients diagnosed with the virus that no longer need to be isolated.

Approximately 6,929 tests have been done by the MDH Public Health Lab, and approximately 7,074 have been done by external laboratories.

Hennepin County has the most cases at 141, with Ramsey and Olmsted both reporting 34.

Thursday, March 26

3:45 p.m.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar says her husband, John Bessler, has been released from the hospital after he tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week.

"Thanks to all who sent kind words & prayers for my husband John," Klobuchar wrote on Twitter. "He has coronavirus & has been in the hospital for pneumonia & low oxygen. He took a good turn, was just released & is now recovering at home! Thanks to those who cared for him & for all front line health care workers."

In a message on Monday, Klobuchar said Bessler began feeling sick while he was in Washington and she was in Minnesota, and he immediately self-quarantined. 

"John and I have been in different places for the last two weeks and I am outside the 14-day period for getting sick, my doctor has advised me to not get a test," Klobuchar wrote earlier this week.

2:30 p.m.

As Minnesota approaches the Friday start of a two-week "Stay at Home" order, Gov. Tim Walz says he has a "clear mission."

Walz said Thursday that mission is to slow the transmission of COVID-19 as we supply, ramp up and expand "the best health care system in the world."

While companies like Medtronic are providing critical tools like ventilators, state emergency officials are looking for alternative venues to be transformed into health care facilities if and when the health care system reaches capacity.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly said on Thursday that he has teams searching for those facilities. First, he said, they'll look for recently closed hospitals and clinics. Next they would look at dormitories and hotels. Finally they would consider larger facilities like arenas.

Kelly stressed that these facilities would be for non-critical care. Now that elective surgeries have been postponed in the state by executive order, hospitals in Minnesota are working to transform that freed-up space into ICU-equipped areas.

Kelly said that hospitals will still be used for critical care, leaving alternative facilities free to care for less critical cases. For example, he said, a surgery on a broken arm would likely be performed at a hospital, but a patient may be moved to a temporary health care facility for recovery.

Gov. Walz said Thursday that they have been receiving calls from Asian and Pacific Islander Minnesotans experiencing hate speech and discrimination as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I want to be very clear that that community is integral as any one of us to Minnesota. They’re part of who we are," Walz said. "This is not who we are. Rare or not, one time is too many.”

Walz reiterated that a "Stay at Home" order does not mean you cannot leave your house. Many "essential activities" are exempt in the order, like getting groceries, getting exercise, and caring for friends or family.

Anyone who is not sure if their work is considered essential can read through the list in the executive order. If there is still confusion, state officials say people should fill out the form found here, and expect an answer within 24 hours.

Unemployment application numbers have somewhat stabilized since a huge influx with bars and restaurants closing, according to Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove.

Walz said that what he is really looking for is for Minnesotans to "voluntarily stay home." While local police agencies will be working with the state to enforce, Walz said that will look more like education.

"It is not our intention to make someone a criminal for going and getting bread," Walz said.

Responding to a message the Minnesota State Fair sent out saying they're going "full speed ahead" with preparations because "Minnesota needs the fair," Walz said that Minnesota does need the state fair, but it's too early to tell. 

"It would certainly be my hope by that time we’ve got a handle on this thing," he said, but acknowledged that at this point "we don't know."

"We’ll have to make those decisions based on situation," he said. "We can’t allow dates to drive us."

11 a.m.

A second person has died in Minnesota due to complications associated with the coronavirus. 

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced the death of the patient Thursday and confirmed it involves a patient from Ramsey County in their 80s. The department also updated the number of patients diagnosed with the coronavirus to 346, up from 287 Wednesday. Kandiyohi, Sibley and Wilkin counties have reported their first cases. 

MDH says 41 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 complications since the virus reached Minnesota, and 31 remain hospitalized at this time. There are 134 people who contracted the coronavirus that no longer need to be isolated. 

Approximately 12,950 coronavirus tests have been completed, 6,849 in the MDH labs.

Wednesday, March 25

3 p.m. 

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says they will use the next two weeks to build a "long-term, sustainable plan" to increase testing for COVID-19. 

Her comments come right after Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order for Minnesotans to stay home, except for essential activities, from March 27 to April 10.

As Minnesota enters the next phase, Minnesota Emergency Manager Joe Kelly says statewide health care coordinators are still identifying alternate care sites to increase capacity.

Health officials say lab capacity on testing is in much better shape, but they now have a concern with swabs being in short supply, so the MDH is prioritizing hospitalized cases.

Another challenge the new executive order faces is employment statewide.

According to officials, 78% of jobs in the state are in the critical industries as outlined by the new stay at home order, however, they anticipate around 28% of Minnesotans to be temporarily jobless during the two-week period. They did add that around 59% not working will have access to some form of paid leave.

Officials have also announced that all Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) have been canceled for the foreseeable future.

As for enforcing the two-week "Stay at Home" executive order, Walz says law enforcement will get further guidance on how to police the order.

"We don't want them to be arrested ... this involves voluntary social compliance," said Walz in a conference call. "We would have the ability to, but we have no desire to do that."  

People with questions can visit a special page on the Governor's website which has answers to frequently asked questions about the "Stay Home" order.

2 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz has issued an Emergency Executive Order asking Minnesotans to stay home for two weeks, which, according to models, will reduce person-to-person contact by 80%.

"I'm asking for your patience, your cooperation and your understanding," Walz said in a video Wednesday while he's self-quarantining after a member of his security detail tested positive for coronavirus. .

The order will be effective Friday, March 27 at 11:59 p.m. to Friday, April 10.

According to Walz, Minnesotans will be allowed to leave their residence for the following, but should practice social distancing while doing them:

  • Health and safety activities, such as obtaining emergency services or medical supplies
  • Outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking, running, biking, hunting, or fishing
  • Necessary Supplies and Services, such as getting groceries, gasoline, or carry-out
  • Essential and interstate travel, such as returning to a home from outside this state
  • Care of others, such as caring for a family member, friend, or pet in another household
  • Displacement, such as moving between emergency shelters if you are without a home
  • Relocation to ensure safety, such as relocating to a different location if your home has been unsafe due to domestic violence, sanitation, or essential operations reasons
  • Tribal activities and lands, such as activities by members within the boundaries of their tribal reservation

"Minnesotans, we're in this together," said Walz. "We're asking you to buckle up for the next two weeks."

Walz also announced that the closure of bars and restaurants will be extended to at least May 1 and schools will continue distance learning until May 4.

Under this order, workers who are considered essential are:

  • Health care and public health
  • Law enforcement, public safety and first responders
  • Child care
  • Food and agriculture
  • News media
  • Energy
  • Water and wastewater
  • Critical manufacturing

Are you considered an essential worker? Find out by emailing criticalsectors@state.mn.us or visiting mn.gov/stayhomemn.

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 keep tabs on the cases around the world here. 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.

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