SAINT PAUL – Today, the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Finance Division held a hearing to receive an update on COVID-19’s impact on Minnesota’s long-term care facilities. Long-term care facilities faced serious difficulties well before COVID-19 emerged – including chronic staffing shortages and infection control challenges – and the current public health crisis has amplified these concerns.
“We know that older folks and other vulnerable Minnesotans suffer disproportionately greater impacts when they contract COVID-19. We have a responsibility to ensure they are able to receive care in an appropriate setting while minimizing their exposure to the virus,” Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester), the division’s chair. “The Department of Health is working hard to protect the safety of residents and staff in long-term care facilities.”
Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm shared a comprehensive update on the situation and the department’s plan to address outbreaks. The plan focuses on five key areas:
1. Expand testing for residents and workers in long-term care facilities
2. Provide testing support and troubleshooting to clear barriers faster
3. Get personal protective equipment to facilities when needed
4. Ensure adequate staffing levels for even the hardest-hit facilities
5. Leverage partnerships to better apply skills and talents
Commissioner Malcolm also clarified that Minnesota is not experiencing a higher rate of COVID-19 deaths in nursing facilities than other states. Past comparisons to other states have been misleading because Minnesota reports deaths in all long-term care settings – including assisted living facilities, group homes and other congregate settings – while many other states report deaths in nursing facilities only.
The division also heard from Emily Downing, M.D. of Allina Health, representing the Minnesota Hospital Association.