Gov. Tim Walz will again address Minnesotans Friday afternoon on efforts the state is taking to keep long-term care residents safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Long-term care facilities have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, with COVID-19 case numbers increasing among residents and staff, which has forced the state to step in and assist facilities with staffing needs.
According to a news release, Walz will be joined by Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Adjunct General of the Minnesota National Guard Major General Shawn Menke, Vice President of Operations at the Good Samaritan Society Nate Schema, and Executive Director at SpringBrook Village of La Crescent Christine Dallmann.
The news conference will be streamed live at 2 p.m. on the governor's YouTube page here. Following the address, the governor will hold a press call with reporters.
They're expected to talk about what's being done to keep residents of long-term care residents safe as well as provide an update on COVID-19 community transmission, the release says.
The governor hasn't held a news conference to specifically talk about long-term care facilities in a few months. In July, the governor gave an update and rolled out an essential caregiver program to allow some visitors at long-term care facilities, aiming to improve the wellbeing of residents who were isolated from loved ones due to facilities not allowing guests.
Two months prior, in May, the state launched a five-point long-term care plan focusing on making facilities safer and reducing outbreaks among seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
MDH's long-term care response November update (December's is not yet available) said that as of Nov. 3, 8% of the state's 368 nursing homes had not reported a COVID-19 case and 60% of the state's 1,692 assisted living facilities had not reported a case, with MDH noting the number of care facilities that experienced COVID-19 outbreaks slowed "significantly" over the summer, but had since picked up.
As of Thursday, Dec. 3, there have been 333,626 positive cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota and 3,784 deaths, according to MDH data.
Of all the COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota, 69% (2,620 deaths) were likely exposed to the disease at a congregate-care/long-term care facility, MDH data show. Nineteen percent of hospitalizations, 18% of ICU admissions, and 8% of all cases have congregate care listed as the likely exposure.
In total, 26,100 cases have been linked to congregate-care facilities, with 14,110 cases reported among residents and 12,353 cases among staff. What's more, 3,104 congregate-care facilities have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 – 348 facilities in the state have had 21 or more cases.
According to KNSI Radio, as of Dec. 1, MDH was assisting 56 long-term care facilities with staffing needs, including sending in the National Guard and recruiting volunteers. Meanwhile, MDH is considering reassigning state employees to help out in the facilities.
Malcolm told the radio station that the best way to protect long-term care employees and residents is to manage the community transmission of COVID-19.