There are now 20 outbreaks of COVID-19 at congregate living facilities, such as long-term care, in Minnesota.
The figure was confirmed by Minnesota Department of Health infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann, who said the number has risen since the first case in a congregate living facility was confirmed just over a week ago.
Congregate living settings is a term used by MDH to describe memory care, assisted living, skilled nursing and long-term care centers, as well as shelters, prisons and jails.
There have been no cases reported so far in Minnesota's shelters, prisons and jails, with all 20 cases coming in facilities providing care for the elderly or those with health conditions.
While the term "outbreak" sounds serious, it's used by MDH even when there is only a single case at a facility, including when it's only a staff member who got sick.
Facilities across the state have been trying to limit the spread of COVID-19 by closing their doors to visitors and implementing strict cleaning and infection control policies.
Of the 20 facilities, 10 of them have a single case affecting a staff member. A further 8 have cases affecting one or more residents, and in two facilities there are residents and at least one staff member with the virus.
It's not surprising that the number of confirmed cases in congregate settings is rising, given that it's one of the few situations where testing kits are available, with kits also being used for those hospitalized and for healthcare workers.
Ehresmann said that MDH is "very focused" on the cases in congregate settings, given that these are home to populations particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, which is more serious for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
In the event of an outbreak, residents and their families at an affected facility are notified, and MDH consults with the facility to ensure they're taking the necessary steps to prevent it spreading to others.
This includes isolating infected residents – and putting them in the same room if more than one is infected – and ensuring that the staff who provide their care are wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment.
Of the five deaths in Minnesota so far, all have been people in their 70s or 80s, and all had underlying health conditions.