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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has announced a “battle plan” to protect those living and working in long-term care (LTC) facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 deaths in the state breached 500 Thursday, with more than 400 of those victims being residents of LTC facilities, including nursing homes. The virus has been particularly deadly to the elderly, many of whom suffer from underlying health issues.

At a daily briefing Thursday afternoon, Walz said a new five-point plan will provide more robust support for LTC facilities.

“Ensuring we are in a strong position to care for our most vulnerable populations is a top priority,” Walz said. “That’s why we are implementing a detailed new plan to make sure our long-term care facilities have the support and resources in place to protect residents and workers during this pandemic.”

The plan is as follows:

– Point 1: Expanded testing for residents and workers (includes facility-wide testing when a case is confirmed)
– Point 2: Provide testing support and troubleshooting
– Point 3: Get facilities needed personal protective equipment
– Point 4: Ensure adequate staffing levels
– Point 5: Leverage partnerships

MORE: Detailed plans under each point can be found here.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says it has assigned an emergency case manager to every LTC facility that has reported a COVID-19 case. According to MDH, the state is prepared to activate National Guard to staff nursing homes and long-term care facilities if necessary.

MDH says the plan is to keep numbers of positive cases low if an outbreak occurs. The plan will be implemented over the coming days.

MORE: Follow the daily briefing on Pat Kessler’s Twitter page.

Republican State Sen. Karin Housley, a crusader for nursing home rights, give the governor high marks.

“I think they’re doing a great job, but I think we really need to focus where the hot spots are,” Housley said.

She supports the new rules and is also suggested implementing a student loan forgiveness program for home workers.

“If it is giving somebody who’s going into that industry to forgive their students loans for however long to just get the workers in, we need to start looking at some of those things,” Housley said.

Commissioner Malcolm said more nursing homes and LTC facilities will get COVID-19 cases — the goal of these new measures will be to limit the spread of those cases in those facilities so at most these homes would have two or three cases instead of 10 or more.

Malcolm stressed that not all LTC facilities in Minnesota have outbreaks. Right now, one of five nursing homes has at least a case, and one out of ten assisted-living facilities has cases.

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Esme Murphy

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