Latest on COVID-19 in Minnesota: Shelter-in-place order would last ‘multiple weeks to months

Published 9:39 am Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Minnesota officials project between 40 and 80 percent of Minnesotans will be infected with COVID-19 before the pandemic lets up, Gov. Tim Walz said Monday, as he considered more aggressive measures to curb the new coronavirus’ spread.

While the “vast majority” of those cases would be mild, Walz said, he is still considering a shelter-in-place order for the state. If enacted, he said its duration would “probably have to be more like multiple weeks to months.”

Asked Monday about whether Minnesota would cancel school for the year, Walz said: “As the situation evolves it may become necessary to do that.” For now, he wants virtual and distance learning to take root.

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Minnesota had 235 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Monday, but public health officials said that number is actually much higher — testing remains limited to the highest-risk patients — and that community spread was happening throughout the state.

The governor and other state leaders made several other announcements concerning the COVID-19 outbreak and the government’s response:

  • A small-business loan program beginning later this week could make up to 5,000 businesses eligible for loans between $2,500 and $35,000.
  • Walz’s revised budget request seeks an additional $356 million for coronavirus response.
  • Elective veterinary services are halted to preserve the stock of personal protective equipment, or PPEs.
  • The National Guard will disperse PPEs from Camp Ripley as officials develop a centralized system to manage Minnesota’s stock of the supplies.

Officials pleaded with Minnesotans to stay home whenever possible, limit contact with others and wash their hands often.

“We should assume that [COVID-19 is] in all of our communities,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Monday.

3M, Ford partner on PPE production

3M said it is turning to Ford Motor Co. to help ramp up production of some of its personal protection equipment for medical professionals.

3M said the car company will start producing its powered air purifying respirators. The full-face masks have a waist mounted, battery powered blower. They’re intended to provide respiratory protection for extended periods of time.

3M has doubled its production of smaller, N95 respirators, to nearly 100 million per month. They’re making 35 million a month in the U.S., most intended for health care applications.

— Tim Nelson | MPR News

Minnesota nurses seek donations of N95 protective masks

Nurses report they are extremely short on masks to shield them from the novel coronavirus and other threats. They’re asking people with N95 masks to donate them.

Carrie Mortrud of the Minnesota Nurses Association said a nurse may normally use several masks during a shift but some are now asked to use the same mask for a week.

“Some nurses at some hospitals across the state are being told they have to use them for five shifts. From Monday to Tuesday to Wednesday to Thursday to Friday,” Mortrud said.

Masks will be collected from noon to 2 p.m. through Sunday at the Minnesota Nurses Association Office at 345 Randolph Ave. in St. Paul. The masks will be passed on to the State Emergency Operations Center to distribute to nurses.

The association said as of Monday afternoon, it has collected more than 30,000 masks.

— Martin Moylan | MPR News