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Doctors, dentists, vets can all work in Minnesota on Monday

Walz lifts order stopping elective procedures; providers must develop a plan to conserve PPE, protect staff and patients

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz Minnesota provides an update on the state’s response to COVID-19 during a news conference on Monday, May 4, in St. Paul, Minn. At the news conference, Abdi Kahin, CEO of Afro Deli, and Liz Rammer, president and CEO of Hospitality Minnesota, also spoke. Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press, Pool
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ST. PAUL — Beginning next Monday, medical, dental and veterinary clinics can resume elective procedures if they prepare a plan for prioritizing procedures, preserving personal protective equipment and ventilators, and protecting patients, visitors and their staff.

Gov. Tim Walz announced the order during an afternoon press conference on Tuesday, May 5.

The order effectively sets aside the governor's March 23 emergency order requiring the state's enormous health sector to delay all elective procedures — a step which has resulted in postponed care, furloughs, salary cuts and empty waiting rooms throughout the state's hundreds of hospitals and clinics.

It replaces that measure with requirements that providers create and hold a plan which prioritizes procedures, consults with community PPE preparedness partners, be prepared to delay low and medium priority procedures should COVID-19 cases surge, and seek out their PPE from commercial sources that do not eat into public supplies.

Clinics must also allow for social distancing, keep the workplace free of infection and inform the public of the risks of contracting COVID-19 from a given procedure. The order also underscores worker protections in Minnesota statute should a front line worker reasonably feel the facility is an unsafe environment.

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"One of the areas we have been focused on for a long time is trying make sure hospital care is ready when Minnesota cases surge, which is still coming," Walz said. "There are dark days ahead of us, but we've changed the calculus with PPE and readiness, and it's one of the reasons today I am signing this order that allows doctors, dentists and veterinarians to go back in with elective surgeries and procedures after completing a plan complying with requirements set by the Minnesota Department of Health.

"They are going to have to say we have those supplies in reserve for when the surge happens... that we have excess right now and are willing to make a calculated choice to start bringing back in those elective surgeries."

Walz and state health commissioner Jan Malcolm framed the move as needed to offset deficits in health care under the work stoppage, rather than economic losses.

"This is a quality of life issue," Walz said. "One that supports not putting off things that need to be treated, because if we do, we're going to come out with worse problems health-wise."

Walz said the decision came with the consultation of nurses and frontline care workers who he said remain concerned about "depleting their supplies, or putting them in a frontline position where they don't feel like they have the proper protective care."

It was celebrated by officeholders who had called in recent days for the resumption of elective procedures.

“The governor’s order offers a ray of light to the people who have been waiting for necessary medical care,” said Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, in a statement. “Countless hospital staff have been furloughed, leaving our healthcare system vulnerable, hundreds of citizens without work, and many care centers at risk of permanent closure."

Walz continued to stress the importance that Minnesotans social distance, wear mask in public and take steps to prevent infections from spreading.

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"Every time you gather close together without a mask," Walz said, "there's a chance you put a nurse at risk."

Minnesota recorded 617 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, May 5, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Pope County in central Minnesota added its first case. The state confirmed case count is now 7,851, but that number is believed to be an undercount.

The outbreaks and intensified testing associated with meat processing continued to make their presence known in the state. Stearns County added another confirmed 87 cases on Tuesday, reaching 815 so far. Nobles County added 58 cases, reaching 1,011, while Kandiyohi County added 12 more cases, reaching 200.

Five counties home to meat processing now count for a quarter of all the cases in the state.

The 617 new cases added statewide was another one-day record for the state, albeit on far fewer tests. The state had hoped to be conducting 5,000 tests a day by the start of May, and had conducted nearly 4500 daily by the end of last week. But on Tuesday, the Mayo Clinic and University of Minnesota led virtual testing lab had conducted only 2,068 tests.

Malcolm said the dip in testing was due to a technical glitch with the data interface between labs and believes that the real number of persons tested Monday was 3,800.

Health officials also reported 27 deaths on Tuesday, with 19 in Hennepin County, three each in Anoka and Ramsey counties and one death each in Sherburne and Clay counties. The death total from the virus in the state is now 455.

Malcolm said that 23 of 27 deaths were among residents in long term care.

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At 2.4 deaths per 10,000 residents, Hennepin County has one of the highest death rates in the state for counties with more than 10 deaths. At 2.9 deaths per 10,000 residents, Winona County leads the state in mortality per capita.

ICU use continues to climb in the state, with another 16 patients now receiving critical care as of Tuesday, for a statewide total of 182. Another 252 non-ICU patients are in the hospital with COVID-19.

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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 .

Related Topics: NEWSMDALL-ACCESS
Paul John Scott is the health correspondent for NewsMD and the Forum News Service. He is a novelist and was an award winning magazine journalist for 15 years prior to joining the FNS in 2019.
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