ROCHESTER, Minn. -- The state of Minnesota reported 394 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, June 13. The new cases were spread across 40 counties and appeared to contain no "hot spots."
Cook County in the state's arrowhead reported its first case on Saturday. There is now only one county in the state — Lake of the Woods — with no laboratory-confirmed cases.
The state has now passed 30,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, reaching 30,172. Health officials believe the true case count is much higher and have offered a figure of 5% of the population, or roughly 260,000 people.
The state on Saturday also reported having conducted 12,784 tests Friday, a continuation of high testing spurred by four community testing sites set up in the Twin Cities in the aftermath of widespread protest last week.
An additional 9 deaths were reported Saturday. Single deaths were recorded in Dakota, Stearns and Washington counties. Two deaths were recorded in Ramsey County, and four in Hennepin County. The state has now recorded 1,283 deaths from COVID-19.
The new deaths included four residents of a long-term care facility. The state health department recently supplied Sen. Karin Housley a list of answers to questions concerning deaths in long-term care facilities.
The senator has been at the forefront of an effort to call attention to the state's high percentage of deaths in long-term care facilities.
Minnesota on Saturday reported 1,019 of its 1,283 deaths in long-term care or assisted living facilities. This comes out to 79% of all deaths in the state from the virus occurring in long-term care or assisted living.
Housley and other critics have centered on the 80% figure, consistent for the duration of the epidemic, as representative of a problem in which Minnesota is an outlier nationally for its high rate of deaths in long-term care.
In their June 5 letter to Housley's committee, the Minnesota Department of Health countered that 561 of 1,072 Minnesotans who had died of COVID-19 in the state as of June 1, had died in skilled nursing facilities, also known as nursing homes. That's a figure equal to just 52% of total deaths.
An additional 30% of the state's deaths from COVID-19, however, had at that point come from other forms of "long-term care" — 256 being residents of assisted living, 39 of memory care, 23 of a group home and 9 of hospice, treatment centers and adult foster care.
"Minnesota reports deaths in all LTCs including assisted living facilities, group homes and other congregate settings," the letter stated, "whereas many other states report only deaths in nursing homes,"
That doesn't appear to be the case for Wisconsin, however. On its website, Wisconsin reports that just 42% of all deaths from COVID-19 in the state have occurred in long-term care, a category which it identifies as "skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes) and assisted living facilities "(emphasis added).
The MDH appears to believe the reporting of COVID-19 deaths in congregate living in neighboring states is an undercount, however, writing in its letter that "nearly half of Minnesota’s LTC deaths have been in settings other than nursing homes. If (that) pattern is similar in states reporting only nursing home deaths, their true numbers are higher than what is currently attributed."
While not addressed by the MDH in its letter, the Wisconsin-Minnesota comparison highlights a stark discrepancy between state-to-state and national-based COVID-19 reporting. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the only standardized federal reporting on COVID-19 in long-term care, the death rate within nursing homes only in Minnesota and Wisconsin is virtually indistinguishable.
CMS recently reported that Wisconsin has recorded 10.6 deaths per 1000 residents of nursing homes, while Minnesota has recorded 12.1 deaths per 1000 residents of nursing homes — that's a Minnesota-Wisconsin difference of 1.5 per 1000, or just one-tenth of one percent. Moreover, both states are doing well comparatively. Minnesota nursing homes have less than half the death rate of the national average, according to the CMS. "The average number of nursing home deaths per 1000 is 27.5 nationally and 12.7 in Minnesota," the MDH wrote in it's letter.
If these data are accurate — unlike deaths in assisted living, they reflect COVID-19 death reporting to government payers — either assisted living centers in Minnesota have vastly higher rates of death from COVID-19 than do those in Wisconsin, or the recording of deaths from COVID-19 in assisted living within Wisconsin represent an undercount.
In additional news Saturday, the ICU usage for COVID-19 in the state remained stable, while the non-ICU hospitalization for the illness has dropped by 16 beds to 199 people.
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Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.