By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Compared to Wisconsin, Minnesota has a higher percentage of COVID-19 deaths per 100 confirmed cases. In the past months, Minnesota has seen a 7.5 deaths per 100 cases, while Wisconsin has seen 4.6 deaths per 100 cases.

The question is why; Minnesota Department of Health experts say the reason appears to be entirely based on testing in long-term care facilities, where people have been the sickest.

“When we were at the point of limited testing, resources were focused on the highest-risk population, so a majority of it was being done in long-term care settings,” said Kris Ehresman with MDH.

In fact, the death rate in Minnesota’s congregate living facilities is startling. Of the 286 total deaths state-wide, 223 have occurred in senior care centers; a staggering 77%.

Experts say however, that this percentage should decrease over time.

“As the testing expands in the next week or more, what you will see is a bit of leveling out of that number,” said Ehresman.

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Since announcing a deal with the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic on Friday, the state has increased its testing.  Gov. Walz said Friday he wants to improve the state’s testing capacity to 20,000 a day. He even unveiled a website which finds your closest testing site.

Still, the Minnesota death rate per case is even higher than the hardest-hit state of New York.

“Is COVID deadlier here than in other states? No. We certainly don’t believe that is the case,” said Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “We do think we have been perhaps more successful that some states in preventing deaths among the general population.

Experts say they are aggressively monitoring conditions in congregate care facilities like nursing homes, and are hoping those numbers stabilize. They insist that as testing increases in the rest of Minnesota, the percentage of deaths will level off.

Esme Murphy