ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Ten more Minnesotans have died from COVID-19, the Minnesota Health Department reported on Saturday, April 18, bringing the state death total from the illness to 121.
The statewide case count on Saturday rose 142 to 2,213, with 23 cases added in Nobles County, home to JBS pork plant in Worthington. On Friday, the union that represents the plant reported that 19 employees had contracted the virus.
“We express our condolences to the families and friends of those who died,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in a statement. “We continue our work along with many partners around the state to protect Minnesotans and prevent additional deaths. It is very important for all Minnesotans to do their part in that effort by following social distancing guidelines and other public health recommendations.”
Eight deaths were reported in Hennepin County, with one each in Anoka and St. Louis Counties. The Anoka County resident was in their 70s and the only deceased reported on Saturday to have lived outside of long term care. The St. Louis County resident was in their 80s. One Hennepin County resident was in their 50s, while two each were in their 60s, 70s and 80s, with one in their 90s.
Intensive Care Unit use continued to climb in the state, with five more people hospitalized. As of Saturday, 111, or nearly all of the 128 persons now hospitalized for COVID-19 are in an ICU.
During a news conference Friday, a tearful Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner described the common sight of three week-long stays on ventilation for COVID-19 patients in her ICU at North Memorial Hospital, asserting that "it's going to snowball," and that the four floors of ICU beds "are all going to be full."
At the same press conference Friday, Dr. John Hick of Hennepin Healthcare, manager of the state healthcare coordination center, said "we're seeing a tremendous explosion," of cases among residents of long term care, but that "we are feeling more optimistic" that the state will not need to build overflow hospitalization sites off hospital grounds for the approaching peak.
Citing 1,300 ICU beds statewide, the capacity to " more than double that," and an additional roughly 2,300 ventilators, Hick said the state was "second of all the regions in the U.S. in terms of surge capacity for ICU resources." It's a departure from the message delivered by state health department modeling, which recently depicted Minnesota caseloads hitting or surpassing its ICU capacity even with a close eye on mitigation and containment.
Also on Saturday, testing remained flat at just over 1,300 tests for the day.
The week was marked by the news that Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota were prepared to deliver nearly 40,000 tests a day if provided $20 million in funding by the state Legislature.
Health officials continued to suggest on Friday that expanded testing would soon be forthcoming, with Gov. Tim Walz adding that packing industries like those now experiencing outbreaks could be some of the first places to receive that attention.
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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.