Five more Minnesotans have died from COVID-19, health officials reported Wednesday, April 1, and 60 more cases have been confirmed, bringing the statewide total to 689 cases and 17 deaths.

State health officials also reported the first confirmed cases in Crow Wing, Freeborn and Yellow Medicine counties on Wednesday, placing the illness in 55 of the state's 87 counties.

In his daily press conference, Gov. Tim Walz and Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm described unresponsiveness, misinformation and blame-shifting in Washington agencies and from President Donald Trump over the lack of testing materials and federal assistance.

"One of the frustrations that came up is the testing issue," Walz said on Wednesday of a shared call on Tuesday with all 50 governors.

“I haven’t heard about testing in weeks,” the president reportedly told the governors a day earlier. “We’ve tested more now than any nation in the world. We’ve got these great tests and we’re coming out with a faster one this week.”

Walz pointedly took issue with the statement.

"The frustration came up for me when I heard yesterday in a briefing that there is massive testing, it's just that the states don't know how to use it," Walz said. "I'm here to tell you not a single governor agreed with that, and not a single governor is not fretting over trying to get the testing measurements up in order to help our understanding.”

North Dakota

The North Dakota Department of Health announced 21 new cases COVID-19. The total number of positive tests for the virus in North Dakota is up to 147, however the department lists 39 people as having recovered from the illness. There are currently 26 residents hospitalized with the illness and three North Dakotans have died.

Gov. Doug Burgum announced Wednesday the mandatory closure of restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters and personal care businesses will be extended through at least April 20. Burgum said the state would give another update on whether the businesses can reopen by April 15.

The new cases announced Wednesday come from all over the state, including the four most populous counties — Cass, Burleigh, Grand Forks and Ward.

Cass County now has 37 cases, the most in the state. Grand Forks County now has five known cases of COVID-19, with Wednesday's addition of two travel-related cases.

A total of 4,627 tests for the virus have been reported to the state, and 23 counties have at least one known case of the illness.

South Dakota

The coronavirus has caused a second fatality in South Dakota, as the state's case count rose to 129, state officials said.

Testing in the state found 21 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Twelve people are hospitalized with the disease; 51 individuals have recovered.

Gov. Kristi Noem lashed out at critics of her relatively hands-off approach to restricting businesses and movement in the state, insisting the state is already doing what it needs to do to slow the spread of the virus. She compared her approach to "draconian" measures taken in China and elsewhere and said those who want a one-size-fits-all approach are falling prey to a "herd mentality, not leadership." She also encouraged South Dakotans to ignore the crises they're seeing on their TVs from pandemic-stricken areas in the U.S. and elsewhere.

"South Dakota is not New York City," she said. "Our sense of personal responsibility, our resiliency and our already sparse population density put us in a great position to manage the spread of this virus without needing to resort to some of the measures we've seen in some of these major cities, coastal cities and other countries."

Around the region

  • President Donald Trump declared a major disaster for North Dakota on Wednesday. The designation unlocks several federal funding sources that may include direct federal assistance for state, tribal and local governments and certain nonprofits during recovery efforts.
  • On Wednesday afternoon, a handful of Minnesota stations had gas under $1 a gallon as prices continued to drop.
  • Job Service North Dakota has received more than 28,600 claims for unemployment benefits over the last two weeks, which is more than the 20,000 claims filed in all of 2019.
  • Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is set to hold his State of the State address Sunday, April 5, from the governor's residence, live-streamed starting at 7 p.m.
  • The coronavirus pandemic is pushing back the groundbreaking of the planned 123,000 square-foot Tri-County Health Care replacement facility in Wadena, Minn.
  • Doosan Bobcat will shut down its production facilities in North Dakota and Minnesota until April 20, according to company officials. North Dakota has three production facilities with 2,200 employees, and Minnesota has one facility with 100 employees.

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