Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday issued an order requiring Minnesotans to stay in place beginning at 11:59 p.m. Friday, March 27.
The move is the governor's most sweeping to date in combatting the pandemic in Minnesota. And it comes as 25 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, were reported in Minnesota, and the number of people hospitalized with the illness nearly doubled as compared to a day prior.
Walz via a video feed from the governor's residence said the new restriction was needed "to buy more time" to build intensive care unit beds and stockpile emergency supplies. The stay at home order is set to remain in place for at least two weeks.
He pointed to computer models that showed 74,000 Minnesotans could die from the illness without mitigation strategies and the state's 235 intensive care unit beds would be overrun by the end of April.
Models project that 2 million Minnesotans will eventually contract the illness and 15% will require hospitalization at some point while 5% will require intensive care. But with additional social distancing measures, the state could have extra time to put in place more beds before the number of cases and cases requiring critical care in the state peaks.
The North Dakota Department of Health confirmed six new positive tests for coronavirus Wednesday afternoon, March 25. The state now has 45 known cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
Gov. Doug Burgum said Wednesday that two Cass County men in their 50s, a Cass County woman in her 50s, a Ramsey County woman in her 70s and two Stark County women, one in her 30s and the other in her 60s. The Ramsey and Stark county cases were identified by the department as community transmission, while the sources of the other cases are still under investigation.
Eight patients have now been hospitalized with the illness, but the department's website lists four people under a new category called "isolation discontinued," meaning they are thought to no longer be contagious.
South Dakota's confirmed cases of coronavirus took the single biggest daily jump so far, with 11 new cases bringing the state's total to 41, according to state officials Wednesday.
In a hastily announced press conference, Gov. Kristi Noem refused to answer questions from reporters about the coronavirus and didn't provide new information about cases in the state. Instead, she read a speech describing the hard work of state employees and encouraging South Dakotans to take a break from their smartphones and focus on positive things.
"Even if just for a little bit today, would you please consider taking a step back? Press pause. Go for a walk," she said. "Be quiet for today and really reflect on the good things that we do have."
Eight of the new cases are in Minnehaha County and one was in Lincoln County. The state's largest city, Sioux Falls, is in both counties. The remainder of the new cases were found in Brown County and Meade County.
Five counties in the state are now experiencing community spread, health officials said in a Wednesday email. Community spread is a term for when officials aren't sure how someone diagnosed with the coronavirus caught it. Those counties are: Beadle, Hughes, Lincoln, McCook and Minnehaha.
The city of Superior announced the closure of all city playgrounds, dog parks, public restrooms and pavilions in accordance with Gov. Tony Evers' emergency "Safer at Home" order that went into effect Wednesday morning.
The dog park was included in the closure because it gets a lot of traffic and people have to open and close the gates often, according to Linda Cadotte, parks, recreation and forestry director. She encourages people to walk their dogs through other parks, remembering to clean up after their dogs and maintain social distances.
The order mandates that all places of public amusement and activity close, both indoors and outdoors.
Around the region
Target said Wednesday, March 25, it will clean checkout lanes after each sale, add signs and floor decals to ensure shoppers are maintaining social distancing and expand its dedicated shopping hours for elderly shoppers and those with underlying health concerns.
A total of 1,955 people have been tested for the virus in North Dakota, and 10 counties have at least one known case of the illness, with the bulk of the cases coming from Burleigh and Morton counties, which includes the Bismarck-Mandan area.
The Red Lake Nation in northern Minnesota has imposed a curfew and a "shelter in place" order for "all persons on the Red Lake Reservation," to help combat the spread of coronavirus. The curfew forbids people from being outside their residences without an essential reason between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
In total, there were 149,443 new unemployment applications filed in Minnesota from March 16-23, nearly 10 times the amount that was filed in all of February combined.
For North Dakotans who need financial assistance with phone or internet service, the Lifeline program is available through the North Dakota Public Service Commission. Lifeline lowers the monthly cost of those services for individuals who qualify.
Minnesota state lawmakers on Thursday, March 26, will return to the Capitol to take up a slate of policy provisions and $356 million in possible funds aimed at combating coronavirus in the state.
Source: Minnesota Department of Health