kenyon wanamingo high school

Minnesota schools, including Kenyon-Wanamingo Middle/High School pictured here, are closed to the public, as districts being distance learning. (Kenyon Leader file photo)

Minnesota now has 10 deaths linked to COVID-19, up from nine on Sunday, with 24 patients in intensive care. The number of total cases jumped to 576, officials said Monday.

Regionally, Le Sueur County continues to top the south central Minnesota list, now with 13 confirmed cases. Rice County has three confirmed cases; Steele County six; Nicollet County three; Waseca County three; Goodhue County three; Sibley County one; Blue Earth County nine; and Scott County 10.

Olmsted County, which includes Rochester in southeast Minnesota, reported 51 cases as of Monday.

Other numbers posted by the Health Department in its daily update on the pandemic include: Patients who no longer need to be isolated and are recovered is 260; Total cases requiring hospitalization is 92, with 56 hospitalized as of Monday; approximate number of completed COVID-19 tests is 18,822.

State leaders are expected to brief reporters at 2 p.m. on the status of efforts to slow the spread of the disease.

More than half of Minnesota's counties, urban and rural alike, now have confirmed cases of COVID-19 as the state moves into its first workweek of stay-at-home orders.

Gov. Tim Walz's stay-at-home executive order went into effect over the weekend and will remain in place until April 10. It's a ramping up of social distancing measures that had already been in place, and states that all people who can work from home should do so.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation reported that statewide, traffic volumes were down 30 percent on Friday and 55 percent on Saturday, compared to the same time last year. Saturday's traffic volume in the Twin Cities metro area was down 59 percent.

State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Sunday that the effects of the governor’s order will take time to play out.

"We’d be hoping to maybe get some indication of (its effects) in the next week to 10 days as we can try to compare what looked to have been the trends and the rates of increase, and whether that is slowing down a bit. That’s our hope," she said.

Meanwhile, Malcolm said the state's long-term care facilities remain a primary concern amid the coronavirus outbreak. Officials said seven of the nine deaths in Minnesota so far have been residents of those care facilities.

Malcolm said providers are very conscious of the danger to residents of nursing homes and other group living facilities after outbreaks in Washington state. She said health officials consider even one case in a facility serious, and have a stepped-up response.

"There’s a team of epidemiologists that immediately works with that facility and a nurse case manager who checks in with that facility multiple times a day," she said. "There’s a testing regimen for testing not only the people immediately around the resident or staff member, but kind of in concentric circles around that, so we do do expanded testing in those facilities."

Malcolm said that so far, 21 residents and 11 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in more than two dozen group-care facilities in the state.

On Friday, state emergency management director Joe Kelly asked Minnesotans not to call 911 with general coronavirus questions and instead contact the state hotline at (651) 201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Some 911 centers were being inundated with coronavirus calls, he said.


Around Minnesota

Case totals in neighboring states

While Minnesota stood at 503 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Sunday, Wisconsin had more than double that total — 1,112 cases, with 13 deaths. Wisconsin and Minnesota have tested roughly the same number of patients, according to state data.

To the south, Iowa reported 336 cases and four deaths.

To the west, South Dakota reported 90 confirmed cases and one death as of Sunday. North Dakota reported 98 confirmed cases and one death.

— MPR News staff

Assigning days for unemployment applications

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reported Sunday that it is processing a record number of unemployment insurance applications.

It's asking that new applicants follow a system to apply on a designated day, depending on the last digit of their Social Security number.

If the last digit is a 0, 1 or 2, applications should be filed on Mondays. For 3, 4 or 5 —- Tuesdays. 6, 7, 8 or 9 — Wednesdays. And Thursdays and Fridays remain open to any number.

Find more details here.

— MPR News staff

Creating safer spaces for outdoor activities

Minnesota's statewide stay-at-home order allows for outdoor recreation, as long as people abide by social distancing rules. And some cities are taking steps to make that easier.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has cut off vehicle traffic along most of West River Parkway between Plymouth Avenue North and 11th Avenue South. It has also blocked vehicle traffic across the Mississippi River on portions of Main and Merriam streets.

The temporary closures, slated to remain in effect until April 10, are aimed at providing more space for pedestrians in those areas.

Also in Minneapolis, city officials said they are "enhancing" the bikeway along Plymouth Avenue North, as well as improving spaces for biking and walking along West 36th Street between Dupont Avenue and Bde Maka Ska, and 26th Avenue South between Ninth Street and Franklin Avenue.

To the north in Duluth, city officials have closed off vehicle access to a mile-long section of Seven Bridges Road and a half-mile section of Lincoln Park Drive, creating more space for pedestrians and bicyclists. They've also cleared snow off a one-mile section of the Willard Munger State Trail.

“The level of crowding observed on the Lakewalk last weekend (March 21-22) makes it difficult for residents to maintain the six-foot separation necessary to prevent transmission of COVID-19,” Duluth Parks and Recreation Manager Jessica Peterson said in a news release. “We have made additional trails available so that residents can recreate without endangering public health.”

Some cities, including Rochester, have closed tennis courts, basketball courts and playgrounds to limit group gatherings.

“We want people to be comfortable enjoying the outdoors and getting some exercise,” Paul Widman, director of parks and recreation for the city of Rochester, said in a news release. “Take advantage of the spring weather but do so smartly and at a safe distance from others.”

— Andrew Krueger | MPR News

Plumbers, electricians still on the job

Plumbers, electricians, and heating and cooling contractors are continuing to work across Minnesota during the coronavirus pandemic, completing repairs for homeowners and businesses. They're among the jobs exempt from the state's stay-at-home order.

Scott Williams is co-owner of Bisbee Plumbing and Heating in Marshall, Minn. He said he was busy two weeks ago as homeowners and businesses scrambled to get projects done. Last week, he said, he saw more cancellations.

"This week it’s quieted down some," he said. "A lot of cancellations with people saying, we don’t want you to come into the house. A lot of that."

Williams said the plumbers in his business are taking care to wash hands, keep social distance, and generally limit exposure while doing repairs.

— Emily Bright | MPR News

Free grocery delivery for Metro Mobility customers

Metro Mobility has started delivering grocery orders to its Twin Cities customers in an effort to keep those customers and drivers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The free service launched last week. Metro Mobility customers can place an order at a grocery or pet store online, then schedule pick-up and delivery with Metro Mobility.

Nick Thompson is director of transportation at the Metropolitan Council. He said the service will help customers with health concerns or disabilities get groceries while also limiting drivers’ possible exposure during trips.

"A lot of our customers at Metro Mobility are identified as part of that vulnerable population, so this protects them (and) lets them stay safe at home," he said.

Thompson said the service also provides a financial boost to customers.

"They would generally pay a fare to get a ride to the grocery and a fare to get home and with this service, there’s no cost to them," he said. "So they’re saving a little bit of money, too, that they can put toward groceries."

The Metropolitan Council expects that hundreds of customers will take advantage of the grocery delivery service.

— Jon Collins | MPR News

Southern Minn newspaper group staff contributed to this article.

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