A coronavirus-related death has been reported in St. Louis County and the Minnesota Department of Health is currently confirming more.
Scott Johnson, executive director of St. Ann's Residence, an assisted living facility in Duluth's Central Hillside, said three residents have died so far from COVID-19 while 17 of the more than 130 residents at St. Ann's have tested positive. The Health Department gives facilities a 48-hour notice before listing the facility's name and its cases on its website.
Johnson said five residents remained hospitalized as of Thursday afternoon but their condition was unknown. The others are recovering at their apartments.
"And there's more tests pending ... I assume that number (of confirmed cases) will grow," Johnson said.
According to a news release from the county, the first death was a man in his early 70s and the additional deaths, if confirmed, will likely be reported in the Health Department's situation update on Friday.
Five new cases of coronavirus were also confirmed in the county Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 33. The new cases include four women, ranging in age from mid-70s to mid-80s, as well as a man in his mid-80s. Some of the new cases are connected to St. Ann's Residence, an assisted living facility in Duluth, the county said.
"It is amazingly difficult on everyone," Johnson said.
St. Ann's is now included on MDH's list of congregate care facilities with an outbreak. A high percentage of the 11 new laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday were linked to St. Ann's.
Johnson said the Minnesota Department of Health and Essentia's infection-control team have been working to screen residents and workers for symptoms and administer COVID-19 tests.
"There's been a lot of consulting and trying to get our infection-control procedures and our personal protective equipment up to a standard that would help stop or slow the spread of the virus in our building," Johnson said.
The facility remains closed to visitors and residents have remained in their own apartments to help curb the spread of COVID-19 within the facility. After the first case was confirmed, a resident told the News Tribune he was fearful the respiratory disease would spread through the facility.
In the news release, St. Louis County Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook called Thursday a somber day.
"To a certain extent, we knew we likely would see deaths from COVID-19 here, but it is still heartbreaking to have it confirmed, and our best wishes go to the loved ones of these people," Westbrook said. "This continues to be a fluid situation. And, we are all doing our best to ensure accurate information is provided to the public as we continue to address the very real needs to protect people in our community."
One more case has been reported in Carlton County, bringing the total to 15. Itasca County has two total cases; its most recent confirmed case was reported April 1. Cook and Lake counties have no confirmed cases. No other deaths have been reported in the Northland.
Statewide, 1,242 people have tested positive out of the 32,294 tests completed as of 4 p.m. Wednesday and 675 people no longer need to be isolated. On Thursday, 145 people were hospitalized and 63 of them were in an intensive care unit.
The Health Department reported 11 more deaths in Minnesota, bringing the total to 50.
This story was updated several times with additional information from St. Louis County and St. Ann's Residence. The final version was published at 5:32 p.m. (April 9) The initial version was posted at 11:17 a.m. (April 9).
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