Grandview Theatre

A pedestrian walks past Grandview Theatre, which features an uplifting message Wednesday in St. Paul. The movie theater temporarily closed on March 17 in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Christine T. Nguyen/MPR News)

State officials said Thursday that a second Minnesotan had died from COVID-19 and that the number of residents testing positive for the disease had jumped to 346 residents, from 287 on Wednesday.

The second death involved a resident of Ramsey County in their 80s, the Health Department said. Last week, officials announced the first death linked to the disease — also a Ramsey County resident in their 80s — who had recently tested positive for COVID-19 and was a family member of an earlier confirmed case. The total number of people hospitalized from the disease ticked up to 31, from 26 Wednesday. The state said it’s completed 12,950 tests.

In the local area, Sibley County, which includes the city of Henderson, was added to the list of counties with a confirmed case. 

Thursday’s updated numbers come a day after Gov. Tim Walz ordered Minnesotans to stay at home for two weeks, effective Saturday through April 10. Walz said the goal of the order wasn’t intended to lessen the number of COVID-19 infections in the state, but rather to help Minnesota push off and brace for the coronavirus’ inevitable peak.

Walz and state health officials are expected to brief reporters at 2 p.m. on the state’s ongoing efforts to curb the spread of the disease across the state.

Officials remain concerned about the state’s ability to handle a surge of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care.

The number of cases is likely at least 10 times as high as the number of testing-confirmed cases, however, and an increasing number of people will likely require hospitalization in the coming days and weeks, according to health officials.

The state had fewer than 250 intensive care beds open on Wednesday, Walz said, and officials need time to increase capacity.

"The thing that Minnesota is going to do is ensure if you need an ICU, it's there,” Walz told the state in a livestreamed address Wednesday.

Other goals of the order, Walz said, include increasing access to ventilators, other life-saving equipment, personal protective equipment for health workers and COVID-19 testing. He said officials must also make more plans for how to protect and care for populations most vulnerable to the coronavirus as it continues spreading.

Also under the order, on-site school closures last into early May. The state Education Department will be canceling the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, or MCAs, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

Nearly 80 percent of Minnesota jobs are considered essential under the order, said Steve Grove, the Department of Employment and Economic Development commissioner. A list of those jobs is available at a state website. Liquor stores are among businesses that will remain open.

Grove said he expected about 28 percent of working Minnesotans to be temporarily jobless during the extended stay-home period.

Walz emergency orders have some questioning whether he has too much power: While Republicans have generally supported Walz’s moves to curb the coronavirus spread, several state GOP leaders questioned the DFL governor’s new state-home order Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said that while he shared Walz’s concerns about health and safety, “I also have grave concerns about the governor’s statewide ‘stay-at-home’ order and the consequences for the families of Minnesota when their jobs and businesses that provide their livelihood are lost."

Legislature to meet again under COVID-19 restrictions: Minnesota lawmakers will reconvene Thursday to vote on a request from the governor for another $350 million for the state’s coronavirus response. “It’s critical for us to be able to manage this response,” said Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans. “You look at the corrections system. If something were to happen and there was a disease outbreak in one of the correctional facilities that would cause a lot of uncertainty and extra costs and overtime costs. If you look at housing and homelessness issues are really critical now. If you look at food insecurity.”

Clinics shifting as much as possible to telemedicine: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, kids and adults are still getting infections and other maladies that have nothing to do with COVID-19. Health care providers are urging people to seek care if they need it, but whenever possible, they’re using telemedicine visits to treat patients.

Union calls for protection, support for workers at MSP during COVID-19

The union representing 1,500 passenger service workers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport says it's vital they aren't forgotten in any bailout of the airline industry.

Service Employees International Union Local 26 president Iris Altamirano says the janitors, cabin-cleaners, cart-drivers and wheelchair agents at the airport receive low wages and few benefits. She called upon Congress and airport commissioners to make sure such workers are protected financially during the pandemic.

"What we are asking for in response to the COVID-19 crisis is comprehensive health care coverage, paid sick and paid family medical leave, and then lay-off protections via pay back or wage replacements for airport workers,” Altamirano said.

Altamirano said most of the workers earn just $11 an hour. Eighty employees of one MSP contractor have already received layoff notices, she said.

— Euan Kerr | MPR News

Target: Sales of essentials skyrocket

Target says sales of food and other essential items have jumped because of COVID-19, but the retailer’s labor and other costs are way up, too.

So far this month, sales of food and beverage and so-called essentials are up more than 50 percent compared with the same period a year ago. Typically more profitable apparel and accessories sales are down by more than a fifth.

The Minneapolis retail giant says increased pay, cleaning and other costs related to the virus are expected to top $300 million, and that the net financial effects of the pandemic aren't yet clear.

— Martin Moylan | MPR News

Timberwolves’ Towns says his mother is in a coma due to coronavirus

Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns says his mother is desperately ill after contracting COVID-19.

The 24-year-old, two-time NBA All-Star said in a social media post that his mother was in a medically induced coma as her condition had recently deteriorated.

In the video, he said his parents had fallen ill, but that they showed some signs of improvement.

Jacqueline Cruz is now on a ventilator, Towns said.

He pleaded with fans and others to take the coronavirus outbreak seriously and to practice social distancing to help slow the spread of the virus.

“This disease needs to not be taken lightly. Please protect your families, your loved ones, your friends, yourself. Practice social distancing. Please don’t be in places with a lot of people.”

— Tim Nelson | MPR News

Health officials for weeks have been increasingly raising the alarm over the spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States. The disease is transmitted through respiratory droplets, coughs and sneezes, similar to the way the flu can spread.

Government and medical leaders are urging people to wash their hands frequently and well, refrain from touching their faces, cover their coughs, disinfect surfaces and avoid large crowds, all in an effort to curb the virus’ rapid spread.

The state of Minnesota has temporarily closed schools, while administrators work to determine next steps, and is requiring a temporary closure of all in-person dining at restaurants, bars and coffee shops, as well as theaters, gyms, yoga studios and other spaces in which people congregate in close proximity.

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