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Walz says Minnesotans are starting to bend the COVID-19 curve

"Minnesotans seem to be social distancing to a point where we’re stretching out the peak infection rate a little bit," Walz said Tuesday.
Credit: David Peterlinz, KARE 11
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz prepares to address the media regarding the state's response to COVID-19.

ST PAUL, Minn. — 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, March 24, 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

More information on the coronavirus: 

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