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Live updates: Klobuchar's husband released from hospital after COVID-19 diagnosis

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

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.

11 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has identified 25 new coronavirus cases in the state. The total number of cases is 287 as of March 25, which is up from 262 on March 24.

MDH says 35 of those cases in total have required hospitalization, and 26 are still hospitalized. Twelve are in intensive care. There are 122 patients of the total who no longer need to be isolated.

One person has died so far in Minnesota, a Ramsey County resident who was in their 80s.

Approximately 6365 of tests have been done by the MDH Public Health Lab. And approximately 5110 have been done by external laboratories.

Goodhue County and Winona County are the latest counties to report cases, with one cases and two cases respectively.

Hennepin County has the most cases at 111.

Wednesday, March 25

9 a.m.

Target has announced new measures to keep shoppers and employees safe at their retail stores during the coronavirus pandemic.

This week, they will begin cleaning checklanes after each transaction, and rotating those lanes to allow for periodic deep-cleaning.

Target will stop accepting returns and exchanges for the next three weeks, but they will also extend the deadline to return or exchange. They'll also pause sales of reusable bags, and waive fees for paper and plastic backs.

Stores are expanding their dedicated hours for high-risk shoppers, including the elderly and people with underlying health conditions. That was previously the first hour of shopping on Wednesdays, and is now extended to Tuesdays as well.

Tuesday, March 24

7:45 p.m.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it received $250 million in grants from the Administration for Community Living, to help communities provide meals for older adults. Minnesota received a grant of $3,951,495.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was signed into law by President Trump on March 18, provided the additional funding for the nutrition services programs authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965.

“The Trump Administration recognizes that the measures needed to protect older Americans from the serious threat of COVID-19 have been disruptive for many of our most vulnerable,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Getting more funds to community organizations that deliver meals to older adults, such as Meals on Wheels, is another example of the Trump Administration’s whole-of-government, whole-of-America approach to combating the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to the release, funding has been provided to states, territories and tribes for subsequent allocation to local meal providers. Grant amounts are determined based on the population-based formulas defined in the Older Americans Act.

3:30 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz says he has his first evidence that the social distancing and other measures Minnesotans are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19 are working "a little bit."

In a call with state health officials and reporters on Tuesday, Walz said that there is some quantifiable data, including reports from the Department of Public Safety and cell phone tower data, that these efforts so far are working to "flatten the curve."

"Minnesotans seem to be social distancing to a point where we’re stretching out the peak infection rate a little bit," Walz said.

"Minnesotans are taking this seriously," he added.

In his update Tuesday, Walz also revealed that Minnesota currently has 243 ICU beds available. There are seven being used by COVID-19 patients right now. Those are out of 15 patients currently hospitalized.

The state has reported 262 cases in total, and 88 of those patients "no longer need to be isolated," MDH says. Those numbers are up from 235 the day before, but MDH has emphasized that the actual total is certainly higher because the virus is spreading in communities across the state.

Walz still says he is not ready to issue a "shelter in place" or "stay at home" order like Wisconsin did on Tuesday, and several other governors have done. Walz said he will make a decision based on the data he's getting from researchers, and that such an order doesn't automatically mean the virus will be stopped.

The governor stood by a comment he made Monday, that 40 to 80% of people will get coronavirus at some point. He said any mitigation measures, including shelter in place, would be aimed at slowing that spread down so that hospitals don't get overwhelmed.

"I think people need to hear the truth on this," Walz said Tuesday. "There’s not going to be a day, when you shelter in place, that the all clear signal goes off, everybody comes out, and they don’t get it. That isn’t the way it’s going to work."

Walz pointed out that as we've seen in China and South Korea, there will likely be more than one wave of infection.

"It’s how you manage it," he said. "And the shelter in place and the decisions that we’ve taken now have all been to do basically one thing: To buy us time by social distancing. And then it’s what you do with that time."

Walz said the focus during this time should be on developing therapies and a vaccine, increase the ICU capacity, and ramp up testing and production of personal protective equipment for health care workers.

"The thing that we’re striving for is, is to not let anybody who shows up at a hospital who needs ICU or a ventilator, not be able to get one."

RELATED: Read the full Wisconsin 'safer at home' order

RELATED: Facts not fear: What the Midwest should know about coronavirus

2 p.m.

Wisconsin's Department of Health Services reports 457 total positive cases as of Tuesday, March 24, up from 416 the day before. The number of Wisconsin residents who have died from COVID-19 is now up to five after a Milwaukee County man in his 50s passed away March 20, according to the Commissioner of Health. 

Wisconsin DHS says 8,237 tests have come back negative. 

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a "safer at home" order Tuesday, which keeps residents at home except for essential activities and travel.

Milwaukee County has the most cases with 219, followed by Dane County with 72 and Waukesha County with 31. A more detailed breakdown can be found on the DHS website.

11 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has identified 27 new cases of coronavirus in the state, with the total count at 262 as of Tuesday, March 24.

MDH says 21 of those cases in total have required hospitalization, and 15 are still hospitalized. There are 88 patients of the total who no longer need to be isolated.

One person has died so far in Minnesota, a Ramsey County resident who was in their 80s.

MDH says they have received approximately 5,812 "completed tests" at their public health laboratory.

Hennepin County has the most positively identified cases at 103, trailed by Ramsey County at 26 and Dakota at 21. A full county-by-county list is available online.

MDH has cautioned against assuming the reported numbers are the actual totals, saying they are the "tip of the iceberg." However, Mayo Clinic has helped MDH get through their testing backlog and Gov. Tim Walz says the state is now in a "much better position to test."

Monday, March 23

3:30 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz says he is not ready to issue a shelter-in-place order in Minnesota but "very soon could be."

Walz addressed the media from his home on Monday, where he is self-quarantining after someone on his security detail tested positive for COVID-19.

With "stay at home" or "shelter in place" orders issued in Wisconsin and Michigan, in addition to several other states, Walz is facing questions about whether he'll enact a similar decree in Minnesota.

Walz said that he and his team are first trying to use their data to understand if the decisions they've made so far - closing bars and restaurants for dine-in service, and closing schools - are having an effect. They are also attempting to see what the modeling will show if they move to more restrictive measures, and to find out how closely Minnesotans are adhering to the current guidelines already.

On that count, Walz said, he's being informed that Minnesotans are largely doing a good job following the state's recommendations.

"I think there’s a real sense of social responsibility in Minnesotans that in these models, others might not be seeing reflected as much," he said.

"All the things that we're doing at the state level are meant to change social behavior to slow the spread of the virus," Walz later added.

The governor emphasized that a "stay at home" order is not an automatic fix for the coronavirus pandemic.

"Forty to 80 percent of us will eventually get this even if we shut it down now," Walz said. "The question I'm asking is, how do we get social compliance where people can do this for a longer time period?"

The governor said that right now the data is leaning toward a conclusion that if they issue an order, "this will not be able to be a 'shelter in place' for a week to two weeks. It will probably have to look more like multiple weeks to months to get the desired effect of slowing it down."

Walz said he wants to take a "hard look" at all the implications of a stay-home order.

If he does it, Walz said, people would still be able to get groceries and medications, and go outside. "What it means is that more businesses would close, that social interactions would be much more restricted," he said.

"If I thought moving now rather than 15 minutes later was going to save lives, and make the difference that had to be made now, when that time comes we would certainly do it," he said. "I'm just saying that today at 2:45 we are not prepared to make that, but we very soon could be."

RELATED: WI Governor Tony Evers orders non-essential businesses closed to contain coronavirus

RELATED: California issues 'stay at home' order. What does that mean?

During his address, Walz outlined the four executive orders he issued Monday:

  • Suspending evictions
  • Immediate relief for small businesses in the form of "peacetime emergency loans"
  • Requiring non-hospital businesses to take inventory on personal protective equipment
  • Suspending elective veterinary surgeries and procedures

Walz also announced that Minnesota has extended its tax deadline to July 15, now falling in line with the federal tax extension.

The governor expressed hope that the federal supply chain of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers is "finally starting to ramp up" and moving toward meeting the demand needs.

Walz said that thanks to the Mayo Clinic, the state should be through its backlog of specimens for COVID-19 testing, and that is "putting us in a much better position" as far as testing capacity.

2 p.m.

Wisconsin's Department of Health Services reports 416 total positive cases as of Monday, March 23, up from 381 the day before. The number of Wisconsin residents who have died from COVID-19 is now up to 5 after a Milwaukee County man in his 50s passed March 20, according to the Commissioner of Health.

Milwaukee County has the most cases with 204, followed by Dane County with 61 and Waukesha County 31. A more detailed breakdown can be found on the DHS website.

11 a.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health has now confirmed 235 positive tests of COVID-19 in the state. 

Minnesota's first death related to the virus was reported over the weekend. The person has not been identified, but was a Ramsey County resident in their 80s.

MDH keeps a list of how many cases are in each county online. Hennepin has the most right now with 89, followed by Ramsey with 24 and Dakota with 18. The department has stressed that positively identified cases are "the tip of the iceberg," as they know there is community spread.

State health officials are expected to provide more information in a news conference at 2 p.m., along with the governor, who is self-quarantining due to contact with a positive case.

10:09 a.m.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz will self-quarantine for 14 days after learning he had contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19.

Walz issued a statement Monday morning informing the public that a member of his security detail had tested positive on Sunday night.

“The most important thing Minnesotans can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home,” Governor Walz said in the statement. “I’m using this as an opportunity to lead by example. Though I’m feeling healthy and not showing any symptoms, I’m going to work from home and model the protocol we are asking all Minnesotans to follow.”

Walz will be self-quarantining until April 6. He will continue to oversee Minnesota's coronavirus response.

“Because our state must maintain essential services, not every Minnesotan is able to stay home,” Walz said in his statement. “Those of us who are able to work from home must do so out of respect to our health care professionals, first responders, pharmacists, grocers, child care providers, and all Minnesotans who are working to keep us safe during this crisis.” 

Walz's revelation is one of a number of high-profile announcements concerning Minnesota public figures. Senator Amy Klobuchar says her husband John Bessler is hospitalized with the coronavirus, and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan revealed her older brother Ron passed away from COVID-19 over the weekend.

RELATED: Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan's brother dies from coronavirus

9:45 a.m.

Senator Amy Klobuchar announced Monday that her husband John Bessler has tested positive for the coronavirus. She sent out a release Monday morning detailing the sequence of events that led to her husband John's diagnosis. 

“I have news that many Americans are facing right now: my husband John has the coronavirus. We just got the test results at 7 a.m. this morning," Klobuchar said in a released statement. "While I cannot see him and he is of course cut off from all visitors, our daughter Abigail and I are constantly calling and texting and emailing. We love him very much and pray for his recovery. He is exhausted and sick but a very strong and resilient person."

The senator says John Bessler began feeling sick while he was in Washington and she was back in Minnesota, and thought it was just a cold. When he started coughing up blood he went to get a test, and was checked into a hospital. Bessler is currently on oxygen, but not on a ventilator.

“While this is his story and not mine, I wanted to let my colleagues and constituents know that since 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," Senator Klobuchar explained. "As everyone is aware, there are test shortages for people who need them everywhere and I don’t qualify to get one under any standard."

“I hope he will be home soon," she added. "I know so many Americans are going through this and so much worse right now. So I hope and pray for you, just as I hope you will do for my husband. Meanwhile I am working in the Senate to get help to the American people.”

RELATED: Facts not fear: What the Midwest should know about coronavirus

RELATED: Do you have medical masks you could donate to health care workers? Here's where you can drop them off

Sunday, March 22

2 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 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 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 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.

More information on the coronavirus: 

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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