ROCHESTER, MN -- Cases of COVID-19 continued to drop on Monday, June 15, as the Minnesota Department of Health reported just 230 cases on 5,031 tests. Saturday, the state recorded 303 cases on over 9,000 tests.
"Notably, the last time we had case growth this low was April 26," said state commissioner of health Jan Malcolm in a Monday afternoon press call.
Malcolm cautioned, however, that a computer problem likely suppressed case totals Monday, and said the day's numbers could still go up.
Malcolm said the state tested 3,200 Minnesotans in four community clinics in Minneapolis and St. Paul last week, with a 1.8% positive case rate. HealthPartners also provided free testing to persons who attended mass gatherings, and are currently reporting a 1% positive case rate.
Deaths in the state from COVID-19 also plunged on Monday, with the state reporting six deaths, the lowest one-day total since April 13.The state reported two deaths in Anoka County and four deaths in Hennepin County. Four deaths were among residents of long-term care.
Amid a growing divide at the Legislature over the status of long-term care and COVID-19 in the state -- critics charge that the state has both done too little to protect and too little to provide access to elderly residents in congregate care settings -- the health department recently produced new guidelines about visitation of elderly residents via sitting outside their windows.
The guidelines allow visiting across open windows if the patient is comfortable, all parties wear masks and sit a distance of six feet apart.
"We are very aware of the negative impact of persons in congregate settings not being able to be together," said Malcolm. "We are looking at outdoor guidance recommendations," she said, adding that "it's a very challenging balance to strike as the more interaction there is the more risk of transmission."
"I do not believe these guidelines go nearly far enough," said state Sen. Karin Housely, R-St. Marys Point, in a statement, citing "the thousands of Minnesotans who have not had outside contact since March. Unfortunately, Minnesotans still have no clarity about when they might be able to spend time with their loved ones — many of whom suffer from physical or mental conditions that make window visits nearly impossible."
Housely on Friday gave remarks before the senate describing a constituent who cannot visit his mother who entered hospice in the beginning of May.
Writing for the #NotAlone Movement on a website for The Patient Revolution, Mayo Clinic endocrinology fellow Dr. Jennifer Clark recently published a proposal addressing the "isolation of social beings without the grace of physical presence and touch of our loved ones in life’s final moments."
The posting then proposed "if the patient is too ill to return home to be with family, and family members have yet to have COVID19... the visitor be allowed to choose to expose themselves to the virus and be present at the patient’s side." It suggested that "loved ones can follow encounters with a period of quarantine to reduce risk of transmission in the community."
Also on Monday, the Food and Drug Administration withdrew its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for hydroxychloroquine sulfate (HCQ) and chloroquine phosphate (CQ) to treat COVID-19.
The malaria drugs, heavily-promoted by President Donald Trump as a treatment for the illness in spite of lukewarm support from his science advisors, were repurposed to treat COVID-19 based on a pair of small studies from France and China.
The drugs carry significant cardiac and psychiatric side effects, and recent controlled studies had found they were ineffective.
In a statement posted Monday morning on its website, the FDA said it "has determined that CQ and HCQ are unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19 for the authorized uses in the EUA," and that the drugs benefits "no longer outweigh the known and potential risks for the authorized use."
Revoking the EUA will not prevent physicians from prescribing the drugs off-label, but it will halt the import of a Bayer formulation that was otherwise not approved for sale in the U.S. It will likely halt compassionate use shipments from federal health agencies as well.
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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.