MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Health officials announced Tuesday that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota reached 629, up 53 from Monday. Additionally, the virus is responsible for two more deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to 12.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says the number of people currently in the hospital because of the novel coronavirus is 56, with 26 of those individuals in intensive care beds.

So far, nearly 20,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Minnesota. Still, health officials have cautioned that the number of positive cases in Minnesota is likely much higher than numbers currently indicate, as testing has been limited.

(credit: Minnesota Department of Health)

Most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state are in the Twin Cities metro, although people are increasingly testing positive in greater Minnesota.

Of those who’ve tested positive, 288 have recovered and no longer require isolation, health officials say.

In a daily briefing Tuesday, MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the age range of the total number of cases is 4 months old to 104 years old. The median age is 46.

Officials say the 4-month-old is doing well.

Gov. Tim Walz also spoke during the briefing and encouraged Minnesotans to continue social distancing and acknowledged that that can conflict with the warmer weather.

“We consistently rank as one of the healthiest states, and it’s because people do a lot of outdoor activities,” Walz said. “But we’re seeing crowds that are a little too big, especially around the lakes.”

Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Homeland Security says it has validated five sites around the state as alternative hospital locations. Those five sites can accomodate up to a little over 600 beds. An additional two are being surveyed.

“Our goal is to identify space for 2,750 beds. That’s 1,000 for the metro and 250 in each of seven regions around the state,” Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly said.

Follow the 2 p.m. briefing updates on Pat Kessler’s Twitter.

Over the weekend, Walz’s stay-at-home order went into effect, in which he directed Minnesotans to stay home until April 10 save for essential activities, such as buying groceries, medicine or getting outdoor exercise.

For most people, COVID-19 symptoms are mild. However, the disease can be deadly to the elderly and those with sensitive lungs. Still, the vast majority of those who get the virus recover.

Health officials say those with questions about COVID-19 can call the Minnesota Department of Health hotline at 651-201-3920.

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