ST. LOUIS COUNTY — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said he’s eyeing a midweek announcement on extending Stay-at-Home orders as COVID-19 cases increased to 986 with 30 deaths Monday.
The Minnesota Department of Health also confirmed three additional cases in St. Louis County, bringing the total number of cases to 16. According to county officials, two cases were confirmed Sunday and one Monday.
Sunday’s cases include a male in his 80s and a female in her mid-20s. The Monday case is a female in her early 80s. It is unknown if there are any cases of community transmission in St. Louis County.
“MDH interviews each person who is a confirmed case to try and determine the source of infection, and the process is taking longer as the number of people to be interviewed continues to sharply increase,” wrote Dana Kazel, communications manager for St. Louis County, in an email.
The first coronavirus case in the county was reported March 21 with ages ranging from people in their 20s to 80s. Only one person in St. Louis County has been reported as being hospitalized. County and state health officials do not reveal exact locations of patients, citing privacy, and have not specified if cases resided in the northern or southern portions of the county.
Walz said in a conference call with reporters Monday that Minnesota’s Stay-at-Home guidelines, which expire Friday, April 10, were reviewed “sector by sector” that afternoon. He pointed to federal guidelines that point to April 30 to continue limited movements, but said state officials will use the data and science it has to determine an extension date.
Data so far has revealed Minnesota is making progress on lessening the impact of COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, with predicted deaths now estimated at 625, down from as many as 2,000, according to projections by University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
The Center for Disease Control also said Minnesota has the lowest infection rates per capita in the nation. Still, Walz cautioned Minnesotans not to be complacent.
"We have been blinded by the lack of testing and blinded by the lack of data to some degree," the governor said Monday.
DEED Commissioner Steve Grove told reporters there have now been 120,000 more unemployment applications in the last three weeks. As of Monday, that number climbed to 342,043, surpassing the state’s total from all of 2019.
Walz acknowledged the anxiety about the state of the economy in Minnesota and across the nation brought on by the virus and various social distancing measures, which have included closing bars and restaurants to dine-in patrons and shutting down non-essential businesses to reduce face-to-face interactions.
The governor said if the data showed he could open businesses back up immediately, he would, but for now is considering an extension of the Stay-at-Home measures. He added that Minnesotans have not been good at distancing in recreational areas, but would consider Republican proposals to open some, including golf courses.
Cities like Virginia, Mountain Iron and Gilbert recently closed city playgrounds.
"We need to get people working as fast as we possibly can,” Walz said. “But the virus dictates this."
Of the 986 cases and 30 deaths reported by MDH on Monday, 280 of the cases are in Hennepin County, which also accounts for 14 of the deaths.
Four cases are in the 0-5 age range, 25 are in the 6-19 age range, 393 are in the 20-44 age range, 334 are in the 45-64 age range and 229 are over the age of 65. Women and men are about equally represented with confirmed cases being 51 percent female and 49 percent male. Among races, people identifying as white have the highest percentage of cases (74 percent) and deaths (77 percent).
The state’s website also started publishing how confirmed cases were likely exposed. The highest is community transmission at 34 percent. Known exposure to a case is 24 percent, travel to another state (with no known exposure) is 17 percent, international travel is 11 percent, unknown/missing exposure is 11 percent and cruise ships are 3 percent.
Residencial types for confirmed Minnesota cases include: private residence (80 percent), unknown/missing (12 percent), long-term care facility (4 percent), assisted living (2 percent), jail/prison (1 percent), other (1 percent), long-term acute living (less than 1 percent) and none in homeless shelters and college dorms.
In Saint Louis County, two long-term care facilities — Superior View Apartments and St. Ann’s, both in Duluth — have a reported outbreak.
State officials reported 28,128 tests between state and private labs and 470 of the 986 positive cases of COVID-19 are no longer in isolation, with 115 currently hospitalized, of which 57 are currently hospitalized in ICU.
The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
Anyone with questions regarding identifying symptoms or whether testing is needed can call Essentia Health at 1-833-494-0836 or St. Luke’s at 218-249-4200.
Non-clinical questions, such as preventative steps to take or anything travel-related, can be directed to the St. Louis County Public Health information line at 218-625-3600 or the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-3920.