Minnesota walks back high coronavirus test numbers

Published 4:51 pm Wednesday, May 6, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday walked back figures it trumpeted earlier in the day that appeared to show the state had exceeded Gov. Tim Walz’s goal of conducting 5,000 coronavirus tests in a day for the first time.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said during the department’s daily briefing that the figures posted earlier in the day, which showed that state and private labs administered 5,223 tests on Tuesday, actually included about 2,000 tests that were conducted on Monday but that weren’t reported right away.

That explained the low number of tests reported Tuesday and meant the actual numbers were more consistent with the slow rise within the 3,000-4,000 range that the department’s figures had been showing for the past week

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Walz has said that hitting the 5,000 target consistently is a necessary condition for reopening the state’s economy. His administration expects the state’s testing capacity to grow to 20,000 a day in the next few weeks through a partnership with the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic.

The department also reported a new one-day high for the state in confirmed cases of COVID-19, 728, and deaths, 30, which raised Minnesota’s totals to 8,579 cases and 485 deaths. It said 391 of those deaths have been among residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities. The new deaths included one in Nobles County, where an outbreak connected with the JBS pork processing plant in Worthington has resulted in 1,082 confirmed cases.

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Minnesota as of Wednesday rose by nine, to 443. Of them, 180 were in intensive care, which was two fewer than on Tuesday.

Also Wednesday, a coalition of Minnesota hospitality organizations asked legislators for an economic relief package to help their members survive, saying federal relief isn’t tailored to work for them. The coalition includes Hospitality Minnesota, the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, the Community of Minnesota Resorts and the Craft Brewers Guild.

Hospitality Minnesota says that more than half of the state’s hospitality businesses may be forced to close permanently in the next two months because of the impacts of the coronavirus and the state’s stay-at-home order.

“Hospitality businesses and jobs are teetering on an economic cliff. As one of the strongest drivers of Minnesota’s economy, we need to collectively step up now to save them. This will help turn the state’s budget and economy around more quickly by generating revenue,” Liz Rammer, CEO of Hospitality Minnesota, said in a statement.

The groups want the small business emergency loan program within the state Department of Employment and Economic Development expanded by $120 million, among other requests.

Minnesota Senate officials announced Wednesday that a Senate employee had contracted COVID-19. They said all staff and senators who may have come in contact with the person had been notified and advised to self-quarantine.