ROCHESTER, Minn. — As the state on Wednesday, June 10 noted the relaxing of restrictions with the partial reopening of restaurants, bars and gyms, health officials in Minnesota are keeping a wary eye on rising case totals in states that lifted restrictions weeks ago.
"It's good to note that case counts and case positivity rates are below than where we were at at the end of May," said state commissioner of health Jan Malcolm during an afternoon call with reporters. "We will be watching closely obviously what happens to these numbers in the coming days."
Malcolm opened the press call with an appeal for the public to stay true to a new normal, one in which activity is being reintroduced, and the state is more ready to respond to a spike in cases, but the virus is still out there.
"While the pandemic most certainly does continue, the work done in these past weeks has left us in a better position to be able to turn the dial toward further reopenings," Malcolm said. "For this reopening to work, and for all of us to continue moving in the direction we want to go... We must continue to wear masks, to wash hands, to stay six feet apart, and to work from home when possible."
"This disease is continuing to prove highly unpredictable," Malcolm added. "So we need to find a way to live with this — to assume many more months of the disease being prevalent with low levels of population immunity and unfortunately no effective treatments methods like vaccines. So what we're doing is accepting a measure of risk to move forward."
Also Wednesday, health officials expressed their interest in closely watching states that are now experiencing rebounds in case numbers, like Arizona and Utah, as well as the confusing example of neighboring Wisconsin, where restrictions were lifted last month and cases remain below those of Minnesota.
"We have been looking at Wisconsin and trying to do some comparisons," said state director of infectious disease Kris Ehresmann. "They have a slightly larger population, virtually the same number of tests, but fewer cases.... we're not seeing the same level of outbreaks in food processing or manufacturing plants there, but there hasn't been any sort of definitive red flag that the'yre doing something particularly different from us that has made a difference."
Ehresmann noted that Wisconsin's restrictions ended May 14, just over three weeks ago, "so we may start to see some changes there."
Health officials believe it takes three weeks to see a spike in cases after exposure.
Because they attended large gatherings recently, both Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan reported on Wednesday having taken tests for COVID-19 and learning they had tested negative.
After spending significant time out in our communities the past two weeks, @LtGovFlanagan and I each got a #COVID19 test yesterday (they turned up negative). It was quick and painless and we urge any Minnesotan who has spent time in a crowd or has symptoms to do the same. https://t.co/Rz5xzyHt0l— Governor Tim Walz (@GovTimWalz) June 10, 2020
The Minnesota Department of Health reported 19 deaths and 352 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, June 10. The total number of lives lost to the illness in the state is now 1,236.
The state reported 8,859 tests for the day. This is the first testing report to reflect the start of community testing efforts on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in June in four locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Over 1,100 people were tested Tuesday across the four sites.
Malcolm stressed that participants should make a testing reservation online at the department of health website to ensure they can get a test. Those who take a test will get a text or email within 72 hours if they are negative and a phone call if they test positive.
Of the 19 deaths reported Wednesday, the state recorded one death each in Scott, Nobles, Itasca, Dakota and Clay counties, as well as two deaths each in Anoka and Crow Wing counties, three in Ramsey County and seven in Hennepin County.
The death in Nobles county was a person in their 30s with underlying health conditions.
Sixteen of the 19 deaths reported Wednesday were among residents of long-term care. According to data released Friday by the health department in response to a request by state Sen. Karin Housely, R-St. Marys Point, the concern over discharging patients with COVID-19 into long term care has not created new cases.
While 319 of the 863 long-term care facilities to report a case of COVID-19 in a staff member or resident had received an infected patient upon discharge from the hospital, "from the data we have available," the health department wrote, "no outbreaks were caused by positive COVID-19 cases admitted from hospitals."
"We've seen a steady and really pretty impressive decline over the last few weeks in the number of new (long term care) facilities reporting cases on a running average," said Malcolm.
"Five weeks ago the average was around 23 new facilities reporting cases each day per day. This week that's down to 5 facilities per day. And this is the inclusive definition of congregate care facilities, including...group homes in addition to nursing homes and assisted living."
As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status. If this coverage is important to you, please consider supporting local journalism by clicking on the subscribe button in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage.
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.