The Minnesota Department of Health didn't report any new confirmed COVID-19 cases in St. Louis County Saturday, though a new feature on the Health Department's COVID-19 situation webpage lists the names of all long-term care facilities in the state with outbreaks, including one in St. Louis County.
It only requires one person to test positive for the situation to be considered an outbreak, said MDH's Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann. Anyone affiliated with the long-term care who has tested positive is counted, including residents, employees or someone who had simply visited the facility before testing positive, such as a contractor.
MDH lists Superior View Apartments in Duluth as one of 47 facilities in Minnesota with at least one case affiliated with the facility.
Ehresmann referred the public listing as an "unprecedented level of data" for the state agency to provide.
"This isn't like getting coal in your stocking at Christmas," Ehresmann said, referring to the facilities listed. "This is not intended to suggest that these facilities are in any way not doing the right thing by their resident. This is simply being transparent. We know (COVID-19) is circulating in the community and we are now looking at 48 hours prior to symptom onset for potential exposure . . . these populations are so vulnerable and we cannot take chances."
The Health Department does not provide the number of people who have tested positive at each facility, though Ehresmann did report that as of Saturday, 13 of the deaths in Minnesota have been associated with congregate care at nine different facilities.
Currently, of the 47 facilities with cases, 31 one of those only have one case, seven have two cases and nine have more than two cases. Out of a total of 85 confirmed cases associated with congregated care facilities, 59 of them are resident cases.
Infection control experts work with each facility to enhance its infection prevention strategies, Ehresmann said. The Health Department also helps provide facility staff with the proper personal protection equipment they need.
"We're able to get that for them once there's a case, but there are challenges with that," Ehresmann said. "There are certainly staffing challenges as we're recommending exclusion of staff so it's a really challenging situation that we're working with these facilities on."
On Saturday, MDH reported an additional COVID-19 case in Carlton County, bringing the total to eight. The first seven were reported to be in the Moose Lake prison. The News Tribune does not yet know if the eighth case is also in the prison, though a News Tribune article published Friday based on a Forum News Service report stated that 13 more inmates were presumed to have the virus.
Statewide, MDH reported 76 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the state Saturday, bringing the total to 865 and marking the biggest single-day jump yet.
The Department of Health also reports two more deaths, for a total of 24. The ages of those who have died have ranged between 58 and 100, with a median age of 86.
The most common form of infection is through community transmission at 32%, followed by a known exposure to COVID-19 at 22%.
Since most of infection is being traced to community transmission, MDH's Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann said that's reason to believe the true count of people with COVID-19 in the state is much higher than what's reported through lab-based testing.
"That's why we're working so hard to encourage people to social distance, stay at home Minnesota, all of these things are intended to slow down the transmission of disease so our health care system can get prepared," Ehresmann said.
Following President Donald Trump's announcement on Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that Americans wear "non-medical cloth" masks in public, Ehresmann offered a few points of clarification, including that for people who are sick, a mask is not an excuse for them to leave isolation.
"Masks are really just a secondary protection, sort of a belt-and-suspender approach," Ehresmann said, adding that the primary methods still include hand-washing, covering coughs, social distancing and staying home when sick.
People who decide to wear a mask should also be careful about how put on and take off the mask as well as where they put it when they take it off.
"We want to say again and again, don't buy or wear surgical or N95 masks," Ehresmann said. "These supplies are in high need in health care facilities and should be used to protect health care workers."
As of Saturday, 440 of the people who have tested positive no longer need to be isolated. Ninety-five people are hospitalized and 42 of those are in an intensive care unit. Those who have been hospitalized have ranged between the ages of 6 and 95 years old. The median age is currently 64.
More than 25,000 tests have been completed at the state Health Department's Public Health Lab and external laboratories.
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