Gov. Tim Walz will hold his latest COVID-19 press conference on Thursday afternoon, during which he will address the growing crisis in the state's long-term care facilities.
Of Minnesota's 485 coronavirus deaths (as of 4 p.m. Tuesday), 391 have occurred in long-term care or assisted living facilities, with health officials facing questions this week over why Minnesota's long-term care deaths are higher than that of neighboring states.
At 2 p.m., Gov. Walz will provide an update on the state's response to the pandemic, and will also discuss "the state’s plan to protect Minnesotans living in long-term care facilities from COVID-19."
On Wednesday, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm was asked why Minnesota's long-term care deaths are higher proportionally than COVID-19 deaths in states including Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas.
Malcolm responded that it's because Minnesota has prioritized testing in long-term care settings, which means it has been able to diagnose more residents with COVID-19 prior to their deaths.
She argues that long-term care hasn't been as focused on in other states, meaning that these states are likely undercounting the true number of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care as not as many sickened residents have been officially diagnosed.
In Wisconsin, for example, prioritization for testing is split into 4 tiers. The top tier is for hospitalized patients and symptomatic healthcare workers. Testing for long-term care residents and staff is listed in Tier 2.
Minnesota however has prioritized testing for the hospitalized, healthcare workers, AND those who live in congregate living settings such as long-term care, which has been the case from early on in the pandemic when it became apparent there was a nationwide shortage of tests.
On Wednesday, state Sen. Karin Housley called on the Walz Administration to prioritize long-term care settings for both diagnostic and antibody testing, as well as for PPE supplies, as well as calling for furloughed healthcare workers to be temporarily deployed to long-term care settings.
You will be able to watch the 2 p.m. press conference here.