ST. PAUL -- New data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ranks Minnesota in the middle of the pack relative to other states when comparing the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in skilled nursing facilities per 1,000 residents.
Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm shared the findings of the study during a Minnesota House meeting of the Health and Human Services Finance committee Friday, June 5. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which conducted the study, is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"Unfortunately, a narrative has kind of emerged that things are really out of control here relative to other states," Malcolm said. "And we've been saying all along we have a pretty strong suspicion -- and now finally this week we have actual data to confirm it -- that part of the issue has been just differences in how states are reporting."
The health department has provided public data on which long-term facilities have experienced outbreaks in Minnesota as well as the number of deaths and cases within long-term facilities. That includes assisted living facilities, group homes, substance abuse treatment centers, memory care centers and more in addition to nursing homes.
"I'm proud of the department for being extremely transparent, and I think very diligent, about reporting COVID-19 cases and deaths and reporting that by setting with a lot of detail and demographic," Malcolm said.
When looking at just the numbers of cases in skilled nursing homes, Minnesota has 49.7 cases per 1,000 residents. That ranks as the 26th highest state in the country and puts Minnesota below the national average of 62 cases per 1,000 residents.
The national average for deaths per 1,000 nursing home residents is 27.5 deaths. Minnesota is at 12.1 deaths per 1,000 nursing home residents, which is the 29th highest state.
"You can see that that narrative that Minnesota's skilled nursing facilities are doing way worse than anyone else is just not the case," Malcolm said.
Still, the commissioner said steps still need to continue to be taken to address the issue of outbreaks in all long-term care facilities. Those steps are outlined in the five-point plan Gov. Tim Walz announced in early May.
Part of that plan includes expanding testing for workers and residents in long-term care facilities. In the past two weeks, nearly 200 facilities and 26,000 individuals affiliated with those facilities have been tested.
"All facilities should be prepared for this and be assuming it's a matter of when they get a COVID case, not if they get a COVID case," Malcolm said.
Another point in the plan was to get personal protective equipment (PPE) to facilities. Of about 1,400 facilities that have requested the health department's help in obtaining PPE, about 62% of them have been fulfilled, Malcolm said. Half of the facilities that have submitted requests are long-term care facilities while the rest are hospitals and clinics.
"We still hear from facilities that they are feeling very concerned about the level of PPE that they will need to manage expected continued growth in cases," Malcolm said. "So we continue to work on improving that supply."
Of the 872 long-term care facilities in Minnesota that have or are continuing to experience a COVID-19 outbreak, meaning at least one person affiliated with the facility has tested positive, 371 of them have only had healthcare worker cases and 121 of them have only had resident cases. The remaining have had both healthcare worker and resident cases
The Minnesota Department of Health reported 712 new COVID-19 cases confirmed through lab-based testing on Friday, June 5 in Minnesota.
Those positive cases are among the 11,006 newly completed diagnostic tests, putting the state above its goal of testing 10,000 people daily.
The health department also revised the number of tests completed by Thursday, bumping the number up by 6,023 more than what was originally reported and putting the number of completed tests at 15,927 in a single day.
As of Friday's update, there are 5,116 known and active cases of COVID-19 in the state. More than 20,000 people who have tested positive no longer need to be isolated.
The health department reported 33 new COVID-19-related deaths on Friday and 26 of them were in long-term care facilities.
One death was recorded in each of the following counties: Clay, Crow Wing, Dakota, Lyon, Otter Tail, Swift and Washington. Two deaths were recorded in Anoka County. Eight deaths were recorded in Ramsey County and 16 deaths were recorded in Hennepin County. A deceased person of Ramsey County was in their 50s. Everyone else was at least 60 years old or older.
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Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.