ST. PAUL — The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday, March 23 took a more personal toll for three of Minnesota's top officials as the total number of cases reported in the state saw its largest one-day increase to date.
Gov. Tim Walz on Monday announced that he would enter self-quarantine after becoming exposed to someone with COVID-19, the illness stemming from coronavirus, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said on social media that her brother had died after contracting COVID-19 and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar reported that her husband had become infected and was battling pneumonia at a hospital in Virginia.
Walz estimated that between 40% and 80% of Minnesotans would be affected by the illness, most without severe symptoms. And he said the state's best plan to deter deaths from the disease is to limit the spread through social mitigation and bolster the state's health care systems to help them respond to the growing number of cases.
“Before we’re done with this, each and every one of us will be touched by this," Walz told reporters on a conference call.
Walz, who was working from the governor's residence, said he would begin working from home after he was near someone with the illness. He said he has not had any symptoms and would continue taking actions to limit the disease's spread in Minnesota.
A member of the governor's security detail tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday night and as a precaution, Walz said he would remain in self-quarantine for 14 days, through April 6. The news came just ahead of an announcement that 66 new cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, had been reported in Minnesota bringing the state's total cases to 235.
Walz said 982 tests were processed Sunday. The Department of Health didn't immediately report the total number of tests completed to date. In total, 21 Minnesotans have been hospitalized for COVID-19, with 12 still in the hospital Monday. Of those, five were in intensive care units.
Health officials said the state test totals likely undercount the number of individuals with the disease. And they said there could be several times that the number of cases in the state that haven't been reported.
"We know that is an incomplete number,” Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. "We know there are more cases in Minnesota and the virus is still circulating in communities. In fact, we should assume it is in all of our communities."
Four individuals in long-term care facilities, including one in memory care, reported symptoms of COVID-19.
Earlier this month, Walz told reporters that his office was taking additional precautionary measures like keeping the governor and lieutenant governor in separate areas in the event one contracted the illness.
“Those of us who are able to work from home must do so out of respect to our health care professionals, first responders, pharmacists, grocers, child care providers, and all Minnesotans who are working to keep us safe during this crisis," Walz said in a statement.
Walz halts evictions
Walz on Monday issued executive orders preventing eviction proceedings from taking place until after the COVID-19 peacetime state of emergency in Minnesota has subsided. That means those who can afford to should continue paying rent, but landlords and financial institutions won't be able to initiate evictions if homeowners or tenants are unable to pay.
In separate executive orders, Walz also authorized the Department of Employment and Economic Development to establish a Small Business Emergency Loan for businesses affected by the pandemic, halted non-emergency veterinary surgeries and called on non-hospital groups to report to the state and donate or preserve personal protective equipment, ventilators, respirators and anesthesia machines.
And he proposed $356 million in additional funding for child care centers, families struggling financially through the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), veterans, food shelves, small business loans and Minnesotans without homes.
"We think this will be a bridge to get folks through the next few weeks," Walz said.
While health care workers on Monday urged the state to issue a shelter-in-place order, Walz said he was not yet willing to do that. Governors in Michigan and Wisconsin on Monday announced that they would issue shelter-in-place orders set to begin there on Tuesday.
“We’re trying to think through all the permutations of moving to more restrictive and what the repercussions are," Walz said. “There’s no clear cut answer on this.”
Walz said extensions of business and school closures would likely be "inevitable." And he said the state likely would eventually need to call for a shelter-in-place order, which would limit most Minnesotans from leaving their homes unless they were going to the grocery store, pharmacy or exercising outdoors.
The CDC COVID-19 symptom checklist is here.
MDH COVID-19 hotline: (651) 201-3920.
School and childcare hotline: (651) 297-1304 or (800) 657-3504.
MDH COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.
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