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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Eighty-percent of Minnesota’s deaths have been reported in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

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Gov. Tim Walz released a new plan Thursday to protect residents and workers.

Tom Diedrich’s mother, Elizabeth, moved into the St. Therese of New Hope nursing home in January, just before the COVID-19 crisis erupted.

“Man, she’s a trooper. She’s 95 years old,” Diedrich said. “Change was in the air, but you really couldn’t tell. We were more consumed by what changes were going on with her than in the world.”

It quickly became apparent the COVID-19 impact was serious.

“You could see things inching up, like restricting travel, eliminating travel, all these kinds of things, going, ‘Oh, I better get over there to see her,’ and then suddenly, nope, can’t,” he said.

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At least 47 residents at St. Therese have died from COVID-19. And staff, plus roughly half of the residents, have been infected.

Diedrich’s mother is positive, too, but is asymptomatic.

And St. Therese is not alone. One in five nursing homes in the state have cases, but people living there are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Residents in long-term care account for less than 1% of Minnesota’s population, but account for 15% of the state’s COVID-19 cases — and 80% of the state’s deaths associated with the virus.

Gov. Walz says state leaders are ready go on the offensive. The state’s new plan to address cases in congregate care includes expanded testing for residents and workers; providing personal protective equipment; ensuring adequate staffing; and providing more guidance and planning assistance to facilities.

“There’s many places she can’t be,” Diedrich said. “She needs to be in a place like this, so I’m appreciative that the facilities are doing the best that they can.”

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Erin Hassanzadeh