'What we're doing is working': Coronavirus rate a promising sign for Minnesota

Gov. Tim Walz and Jan Malcolm says social distancing efforts are having an effect.
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Gov. Tim Walz and Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm say that the coronavirus figures for Minnesota are showing that the "Stay at Home" and other social distancing orders are having a positive impact.

Although they are cautioning that Minnesota is far from being out of the woods yet – with Gov. Walz expected to extend Minnesota's Stay at Home order on Wednesday – the slow increase in positive COVID-19 cases relative to other states is a sign that the early efforts to limit interaction in Minnesota is paying off.

Malcolm said that early on in the COVID-19 outbreak, Minnesota's case numbers were doubling every 1-2 days, similar to rates seen in some of the worst hit areas including New York and Italy.

However since Mar. 18, the day after Minnesota's dine-in bar and restaurant services were ordered to close along with a wide range of entertainment and attractions, the doubling rate has slow to every 8 days.

"That tells us that social distancing and other mitigations are having a positive impact," Malcolm said.

Minnesota currently has 1,069 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 34 deaths, which comes a month after the state registered its first case on Mar. 6.

However, Minnesota is still prioritizing testing on healthcare workers, those in congregate living settings, and the hospitalized, and there are many anecdotal examples of Minnesotans having contracted what is almost certainly the coronavirus, but can't get the testing to confirm it.

It's for this reason that Gov. Walz remains cautious, saying he's "very nervous about the lack of testing" and noting that while progress is being made, there is still more work to be done before the state can start loosening some of the restrictions.

He doesn't want Minnesotans to get a "false sense of security" when, for example, they notice that some hospital and clinic facilities are relatively empty.

"We have every reason to share when we are making progress, and some of the numbers are looking good right now and it will come if certain things don't happen," Walz said.

"What I want people to take away from this is what we're doing is working, and we have a chance that if we get this right we can avoid the worst of this thing you're seeing in other places."

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Helping the cause is the Mayo Clinic, which Walz says is working on a resource that can predict COVID-19 hotspots so that states can stop outbreaks before they happen. The governor said he thinks this could "buy us another week" in efforts to slow the spread so health systems remain robust.

He said he understands why people want to go back to work given the relatively low numbers of cases and deaths, and says while it's possible that some could go back to work, he'll only allow it if it doesn't "risk what we've done."

"I want to be clear that I'm deeply aware of the economic pain that can lead to social pain. I  want to tell people thank you for what you've done. This is not just by chance, this was very deliberate and well executed by the people of Minnesota."

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