Walz indicates bipartisan COVID relief could come next week

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday that a bipartisan pandemic relief package may materialize as soon as next week to provide assistance to businesses hurt by the shutdown meant to slow the spread of the virus

Walz said during a tour of a Brooklyn Park warehouse facility where he was helping to package emergency food boxes that he and lawmakers are “pretty close” to an agreement on a relief package, the Star Tribune reported. The Democratic governor and Minnesota House Republicans unveiled separate relief initiatives on Tuesday to provide economic assistance to small businesses, workers and families struggling amid the pandemic.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday reported 6,399 new cases and 72 more deaths, matching the single-day high for deaths since the start of the pandemic and bringing the state’s totals to 289,303 cases and 3,375 deaths. More than 1,800 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Wednesday in Minnesota, including 387 who were in intensive care.

The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Minnesota has nearly doubled over the past two weeks, from about 28 deaths per day on Nov. 10 to roughly 51 deaths per day on Nov. 24, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.

Overall, long-term care facilities have been tied to 2,244 deaths since the start of the pandemic, representing 68% of all COVID-19 deaths statewide.

New data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows 90% of the state’s nursing homes and 58% of assisted-living facilities have active virus outbreaks. The data includes more than 70 senior care homes that didn’t have any COVID-19 infected residents one month ago, the Star Tribune reported.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Tuesday that 47 long-term care facilities are in “a crisis staffing situation” and are receiving active support from the state, including help from federal health nurses.

Walz’s administration has taken the unusual step of emailing all state employees and asking them to consider volunteering for two-week stints in long-term care facilities, particularly in greater Minnesota. The email, which was sent to the heads of all state agencies, says no prior experience is required, and the state would cover travel and temporary housing costs.

“We’re trying to really turn over every stone, so to speak, to think about ways to support the staffing needs across the healthcare continuum, but particularly in long-term care, with the number of health care workers in these settings that continue to be exposed,” Malcolm said.

In the last month, the National Guard has been called to help with emergency staffing in eight long-term care facilities. Of those eight recent calls, seven are for homes beyond the Twin Cities metro area, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

At Franklin Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a 40-bed nursing home in south-central Minnesota, 31 residents and 17 staff have been infected since early November. As of Tuesday, six residents had died, a spokesman for the home said.

“This is real, and it doesn’t matter what you believe,” Josh Domeier, the nursing home administrator, said in a video update on Facebook. “I am watching residents who were just fine yesterday who are tanking today, and my head has been thrown and spun in hundreds of directions.”

Walz also on Wednesday announced a $1 million relief fund toward the state’s ailing tourism industry. The grants are intended for tourism promotion nonprofits and communities that rely on tourism as an economic engine

Meanwhile, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit and a motion for a temporary restraining order Wednesday against a southern Minnesota gym for defying Walz’s executive order to close. Brandon Reiter, the owner of Plainview Wellness Center, told The Associated Press he plans to fight the lawsuit.

“This business is my livelihood,” he said. “I’m not going to go down without a fight as far as for my business and providing for my family.”


This story has been corrected to show the date from which patients were hospitalized is Wednesday, not Thursday.