Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday, May 20, said the state will launch mobile units to expand their diagnostic testing. He also said Minnesota has had critical laboratory and personal protective equipment orders "picked off" by the federal government.
"There are issues," Walz said. "Just candidly, everybody's a little cautious talking about it, because they are a little bit nervous. It's a sad testament to the situation we're in. (But) these were on their way, and they were picked off somewhere in the chain by the federal government.
“No one all the way up to the Vice President (Mike Pence) has been able to tell me who picked them off. And we talked personally for 20 minutes."
Walz credited federal officials with assisting the state in procuring swabs and to some extent reagents, and added that "my instruction to my team is that is an obstacle that we have to work around." But he said the state's emergency response efforts have been hampered by equipment seizures and a lack of communication from the White House.
COVID-19 fatalities shot up again Wednesday as 29 more people succumbed to the illness in Minnesota.
One death each was reported in Stearns, Mower and Blue Earth counties, two each were reported in Washington and Anoka counties, six each in Dakota and Ramsey counties and 10 in Hennepin County.
"By the end of the month, a thousand Minnesotans will have died," Walz said. "The one thing we can control is how we act... we can assure those who get sick that when they get sick, when they go to the hospital, they will get what they need."
Of the new deaths, 26 were among patients in long-term care facilities. Currently, 635 of the state's 777 deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in long term care. Walz recently launched a five-point "battle plan" to increase testing of long term care facilities.
The state health department announced 102 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. The number of cases marks a single-day high and the first day of the pandemic with a three-figure case count.
The department also confirmed the deaths of four men from the illness. The men, all over 60, were residents of Cass County, which includes the Fargo area and has seen the bulk of the state's COVID-19 cases.
Forty-nine North Dakotans, including 38 residents of Cass County, have now died from the illness that has claimed more than 90,000 lives nationwide. At least 29 of the deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to the department.
The South Dakota Department of Health reported 109 more people have recovered from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. The total number of recoveries is at 3,023 in the state.
The state’s current hospitalizations increased by four to 81, with total hospitalizations overall increasing to 333, up six from Tuesday.
Overall, there were 32 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Dakota, bringing the total to 4,117.
The number of deaths resulting from COVID-19 remains at 46.
The state Department of Health Services reported Tuesday a total of 13,413 positive coronavirus cases in the state. That’s an increase of 528 from Tuesday. In all, 481 Wisconsinites have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Around the region
- Minnesota restaurants, bars and hair salons will be allowed to reopen June 1 with new safety protocols in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus, state officials announced Wednesday. Personal care businesses like tattoo parlors, hair salons and barbershops would be able to open their doors on the same date if they operate at 25% capacity.
- North Dakotans who identify as black or Asian are more likely to contract COVID-19 than their white and Native American neighbors, Gov. Doug Burgum said at a press conference on Wednesday, May 20. Overall, nearly 38% of residents who tested positive for the illness self-identified as people of color. However, Burgum noted that about 16% of the people who have tested positive in the state declined to include their race when asked, which leaves a significant hole in the data.
- Catholic and Lutheran church leaders in Minnesota said Wednesday that they would resume in-person worship despite the state's ongoing stay at home order — starting on May 26.
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