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Latest on COVID-19 in Minnesota: Community transmission biggest cause

As the COVID-19 death toll climbed to 17 and community spread was found to be the primary driver of infections, Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday he would make a decision next week on whether to extend Minnesota’s stay-at-home order.

The current order lasts through April 10, but major holidays including Easter, the start of Ramadan and Passover are soon approaching — along with the large gatherings they traditionally bring.

Also Wednesday, state officials said they were still working to secure coronavirus testing supplies and get unemployment checks in Minnesotans’ hands.

Despite multiple calls with the federal Department of Health and Human Services and Walz’s personal request to Vice President Mike Pence, “none of the requested laboratory supplies that we’ve talked to HHS about have materialized in Minnesota at this point,” State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

The latest coronavirus numbers as of Wednesday:

•689 positive cases via 21,191 tests
•17 deaths
•54 people hospitalized
•27 people in intensive care units
•342 patients recovered
•47 years old for median age of positive cases
•Age range is 4 months to 104 years old
•30 percent of cases caused by community transmission

While about half of confirmed COVID-19 patients recovered, health officials stressed that healthy, symptom-free people can still have and spread the coronavirus.

People should avoid gatherings with “anyone outside your household group,” Malcolm said.

Since March 16, 272,766 Minnesotans have applied for unemployment. Their checks are on the way soon, said Steve Grove, the employment and economic development commissioner, adding that applicants should expect compensation “a week or two after you apply, and we will backdate from the day you were separated from your work.”