COVID-19 pandemic: Week in review
March 27, 2020
Minnesota sees first COVID-19 death
The first death due to COVID-19 in Minnesota was Thursday, March 19, although the Minnesota Department of Health reported the death on Saturday.
The person who died was a Ramsey County resident in their 80s who recently tested positive for COVID-19 and was the contact of an earlier confirmed case.
Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said the death underscores the importance of protecting our most vulnerable Minnesotans during the outbreak.
“Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the patient,” Commissioner Malcolm said. “We’ve all seen reports of outbreak-related deaths in other states and countries, but this Minnesota death reminds us how important it is to continue working to protect each other during this outbreak.”
Malcolm emphasized the importance of all Minnesotans doing their part to slow the spread of the virus and protect those in our communities who might be at higher risk of severe illness or death. The most vulnerable include those over 65 and those with underlying health conditions.
Also on March 19, Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order ordering health care providers to prioritize COVID-19 care by postponing elective surgeries, including elective dental procedures.
“The greatest risk we face during the COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming our health care systems and limiting their ability to respond to emerging cases,” Walz said. “This executive order keeps more health care resources open and prioritizes life-saving intervention for COVID-19 patients and other emergency care.”
Three COVID-19 cases in St. Louis County
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, as of Wednesday, March 25, there were three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in St. Louis County. All three are linked to domestic travel, and not the result of community transmission. All three are women: two in their 60s and one in her late 30s.
In a majority of cases, COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
“We’re seeing repeated instances of people who have been traveling within the country, and bringing this virus back with them. We need people to recognize the risk they are taking and the risk they are creating by traveling,” said St. Louis County Commissioner Mike Jugovich. “Anyone coming into our county from somewhere else risks bringing the virus with them. That includes people coming to spend time at their cabin or favorite rental getaway spot, and even snowbirds coming home. Please pause and ask if this is really the best time to travel. We all need to do our part to stop the spread of this virus.”
As of Wednesday, 26 of those people were hospitalized and a total of 122 patients who tested positive no longer need to be isolated, according to MDH.
On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Tim Walz ordered Minnesotans to Shelter in Place starting Friday, March 27 through April 10 in an effort to give hospitals and public health more time to increase capacity to handle infected people who require hospitalization and/or intensive care treatment.
Price gouging nixed by governor’s order
On Friday, March 20, Gov. Walz enacted executive orders: one banning price gouging in the state and another which authorized the Minnesota National Guard to provide assistance during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency.
Walz cited examples of price gouging, including a store that advertised hand sanitizer for $60 a bottle and another selling toilet paper for $10 a roll. The price gouging prohibition took effect at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 21. Minnesotans can report instances of price gouging by calling 651-296-3353 or 800-657-3787. Complaints can be made online at http://www.ag.state.mn.us/office/complaint.asp.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison says his office began its enforcement efforts immediately after the governor’s executive order.
Ellison said so far, his office has received more than 300 price-gouging complaints on goods and services. Those include toilet paper, rice, cleaning products, face masks, eggs, butter and water. Ellison’s office has made more than 70 visits to Minnesota retailers during the past four day to check prices and investigate complaints of price-gouging.
Ellison’s office on Tuesday said it has sent a warning letter to the retailer Menards following complaints of price gouging on cleaning supplies, bleach and face masks. The attorney general also said that it forced a St. Paul shop to reduce prices after allegedly charging $80 for a 36-pack of toilet paper.
The governor said the initial mission of the Minnesota National Guard is to transport personal protective equipment, such as protective face masks, from storage at Camp Ripley to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The press release noted that activation of the Minnesota National Guard has already begun and is active through the duration of the COVID-19 peacetime emergency.
State, federal help is coming after votes
On Saturday, Gov. Walz announced that small businesses in Minnesota are now eligible to apply for disaster assistance through the Small Business Administration (SBA) for economic injury during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 is placing significant economic strains and unforeseen hardships on our business community,” said Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove. “The Governor’s disaster declaration ensures that Minnesota’s small businesses can access key financial assistance to help them recover from losses brought on by these hard times.”
The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing during the pandemic.
The Minnesota Legislature was going to convene Thursday to discuss further help and a huge federal bill offering checks to many Americans was still being debated Wednesday when this edition of the Pine Knot News went to press.
Coronavirus gets personal for officials
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan announced that her brother, Ron, died after contracting COVID-19. Her brother lived in Tennessee, and was the second person to die from the disease in that state. He had been diagnosed with cancer several weeks ago and his immune system was compromised, Flanagan said.
She stressed that people should stay home to protect people like her brother.
On Monday, March 23, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar announced that her husband, John, has COVID-19 according to test results that morning.
She said her husband started to feel sick while he was in Washington D.C. and she was in Minnesota. Klobuchar said she and her husband have been in different places the last 14 days, so she is not being tested.