Gov. Walz: Minnesota has bought time against the COVID-19 outbreak

Data shows that community mitigation in Minnesota is working to slow the spread.
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Minnesotans have taken social distancing seriously and the data shows that the strategy has bought the state's healthcare facilities more time in the race against the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

"We have slowed the infections rate, have pushed out the peak and have pushed out the peak to ICU capacity," Gov. Tim Walz said.

Walz reiterated that 40-80% of Minnesotans will likely be infected with COVID-19 during the course of the epidemic, but the key is drawing out the peak infection rate and keeping intensive care unit (ICU) beds available to patients, as well as stockpiling as much personal protection equipment as possible for doctors and nurses. 

"If they're [severely ill patients] able to get proper ICU, their survival rates are much, much higher. If they don't get that ICU care, it has a pretty high mortality rate and we're trying to work against that," said Walz. 

The governor is still studying developing data and modeling before making a decision to put Minnesota in a stay-at-home order the same way more than a dozen states across the country, including Wisconsin, have. 

"We think Minnesota is getting results that look different. When you go into a shelter in place, how are you going to come out of that and what's it look like? People need to hear the truth on this.

"There's going to be several waves of this. It's how you manage it. The decisions we've taken now have all been to do basically one thing, to buy us time by social distancing. It's what you do with that time."

By slowing the rate of spread, Minnesota researchers are using the extra time to look for therapeutics and vaccines, ramp up testing, stockpile protective equipment and planning for how to best handle any additional waves of the outbreak. 

"The thing that we're striving for is to not let anybody show up at the hospital and not be able to get an ICU bed or ventilator," said Walz. 

There are currently 243 ICU beds available in Minnesota. Of the state's 262 confirmed COVID-19 patients, seven of them are currently in intensive care.

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Walz reacts to Trump's goal of re-opening the economy by Easter

The good news for Minnesota comes on a day in which President Donald Trump said he's hoping to re-open the nation's economy by Easter, which waits 19 days from now on April 12.

"It's going to be well beyond Easter and I don't think it does us any good to pretend that it's not," said Walz, who was asked what advice he'd give to Trump: "Use the Defense Protection Act and crank out PPE and ventilators, that is the single biggest thing that the federal government could do." 

The president's optimism was preceded by an ominous message from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"We are just the test case. That's how the nation should look at it. Look at us today. Where we are today, you will be in three weeks or five weeks or six weeks. We are your future," said Gov. Cuomo said. 

If New York is the future for Minnesota, the rate of infection is far faster than it appears to be in Minnesota, which is a testament to Minnesotans taking Gov. Walz's "Stay Home MN" initiative seriously. 

Minnesota, with still-limited testing capabilities, has 262 confirmed COVID-19 cases. In New York, the number of confirmed cases has exploded from around 3,500 last Thursday to more than 21,000 Tuesday, albeit it has greater testing capacity.

Minnesota has had just 1 COVID-19 death so far, while New York has had 157.

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