Just over 80% of Minnesota deaths from coronavirus are among residents of long term care, giving the state one of the highest per capita death rates for the virus in the country.

To that end, Gov. Tim Walz and state health officials rolled out a five part "battle plan" on Thursday, May 7, meant to lower the daily death counts at the source of their greatest concentration.

The first part of the plan includes expanding the testing for an entire facility when a case is confirmed or multiple residents or staff get symptoms. The second part of the plan is to develop troubleshooting "strike teams" to quickly resolve any obstacles to testing.

The third part of the plan seeks to empower the state to push personal protective equipment to facilities with outbreaks, rather than waiting for requests. The fourth and fifth parts of the plan include putting the state behind the staffing crises, and to include a broad range of partners outside of state government.

"The state department of health has been trying to manage these needs across the state,” said commissioner of health Jan Malcolm at an afternoon news conference. “We've been doing a decent job, but we know we don't have the resources to be everywhere as much as we need to be."

New cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in Stearns County, as the central Minnesota region reported 186 cases on Thursday, May 7, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. With 1,161 cases, the county now has the second-highest confirmed case count in the state.

Nobles County reported 71 cases on Thursday, and currently has 1,153 cases. Hennepin County has the most cases in the state at 2,962.

The state reported 23 additional deaths on Thursday, bringing the new total of lives lost to the illness to 508.

North Dakota

North Dakota is reporting an additional 49 cases of COVID-19 as the state’s testing numbers crossed 2,000 for the first time in several days.

The state’s health department reported 2,235 tests in its daily log Thursday. Of those tests, 49 were positive.

North Dakota has had a total of 1,371 positive tests since the first case was reported in mid-March; 601 individuals have recovered from the illness.

No new deaths were reported Thursday. A total of 31 people have died related to COVID-19.

More than 100 people have been hospitalized related to COVID-19. The state reports that 35 people are still in the hospital.

The new positive cases are from nearly all parts of the state with 23 in Cass County, the largest county in the state, which also has the most positive cases with 709. The health department lists 270 people as recovered in Cass County.

Five new cases were reported in Williams County in the far northwest part of the state. Four cases were reported in Grand Forks County, while Stark County reported three new cases.

South Dakota

The number of deaths from COVID-19 in South Dakota increased by two for a total of 31 deaths overall.

The two deaths were reported by the South Dakota Department of Health on Thursday. The two deaths were reported in Minnehaha County, which includes Sioux Falls.

Active cases were reported at 846, an increase of 73 from Wednesday. There’s 2,905 total positive cases, an increase of 126 from Wednesday.

During a press conference Thursday, Gov. Kristi Noem said that she is still looking for guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury on the COVID-19 relief funds allocated to states.

Noem also said the state anticipates peak infection to hit in June, during which 2,200 people could be hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Wisconsin

A total of 9,215 positive cases of COVID-19 were reported in Wisconsin on Thursday, according to the state Department of Health Services. That's an increase of 314 cases from the day before, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

According to health officials, 374 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID-19 as of Thursday. DHS reported 93,035 negative tests for the new coronavirus, an increase of 5,209 from Wednesday to Thursday, WPR reported.

Around the region

Nationwide, jobless claims have now reached 33.5 million, which represents about 21% of the nation's labor force in March, according to a CNN.com report, which said an official unemployment rate for April is expected Friday from the U.S. Labor Department. According to numbers released Thursday, May 7, by Job Service North Dakota, 4,790 people filed unemployment claims last week, which helped push the total number of claims filed since March 16 to more than 67,000. The latter number is roughly 17% of North Dakota's labor force, though that is not an official unemployment rate. Minnesota reported Thursday that about 625,000 unemployment claims have been filed in the state since March 16. That's about 20% of the state's labor force, though that rate is not an official unemployment rate.

A total of 3,756 initial weekly claims for unemployment benefits were processed by the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation during the week of April 26 through May 2, which is a decrease of 1,779 claims over the prior week's total of 5,535, according to a news release. The latest number of continued claims is 22,707 for the week ending April 18.

North Dakota is one of only nine states in the country that are near or have exceeded the testing minimums estimated by the Harvard Global Health Institute group to begin opening up by May 15, according to a new NPR report. The other eight states are: Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Minnesota education and health officials on Friday, May 8, are set to provide updates about how the state’s schools can hold graduation ceremonies.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $1.585 million to four health centers in South Dakota to expand COVID-19 testing, according to a news release.

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