State proposes $7 million for facility to store human remains from COVID-19 deaths

In some places, funeral and hospital storage is full

Sloane Martin
May 08, 2020 - 6:42 pm
A graphic with COVID-19 and Minnestoa

iStock / Getty Images

Thursday Minnesota surpassed 500 deaths from coronavirus. Friday it surpassed 10,000 confirmed cases.

Here’s a roundup of Friday’s COVID-19 media briefing with Gov. Tim Walz and state leaders including a proposal to purchase a facility to store human remains.

  • Walz said he is “heartbroken” for graduates and schools that are having to adjust to virtual ceremonies or car parades, but he’s listening to health experts who advise against social gatherings outside the household.

“I have pushed incredibly hard on this to find solutions,” Walz said. “I have asked about, ‘What about 20 kids at a time at 10 different ceremonies?’ ‘How do we best do this?’ Everytime we leave ambiguity in one of these, then we get the ‘Why aren’t you being more specific?’ ‘Why can’t we do this?’ ‘Why can’t we og over here?’ These decisions come back to, I have to rely on the experts to give both the health opinion and then the well-being and the capacity for us to be able to do it.”

  • After the FDA cleared the drug remdesivir for emergency use to treat COVID-19 patients, state Health officials say they expect a shipment to come to Minnesota.

A study showed that the drug shortened the time to recovery by 31 percent, or about four days on average, for hospitalized patients from 15 to 11 days.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said they’re strategizing how to equitably and fairly distribute the shipment.

“That would be extremely good news if that kind of effect holds up both in terms of helping to treat people and helping to manage hospital capacity just that much better.”

Malcolm said it would be used on patients with a severe case of infection. Malcolm says the CDC has told her they hope to have more shipments in the near future.

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan joined the media briefing to update a workgroup she’s heading with Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero to address racial disparities in the pandemic.

“We also know that Black and Latinx Minnestans have increased exposure to the virus because of the higher rates of work in low-paying jobs that are now considered essential such as child care providers and grocers,” Flanagan said. “That also means their families, our families, and loved ones have higher rates of exposure to COVID-19.”

She said African-Americans make up less than 7 percent of Minnesota’s population but 17 percent of confirmed cases. Hispanics are less than 6 percent of the population but 14 percent of cases.

Malcolm said the health community and nonprofits have been trying to bring attention to health disparities for decades.

“We do know that people of color and Native Americans are experiencing multiple inequities in income, housing, employment, etc., that make them disproportionately susceptible to multiple health issues and chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and severe asthma, etc.,” Malcolm said. “And this puts them at significantly higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.”

According to Flanagan, one-third of African-Americans experiencing homelessless and one-quarter of Native Americans have tested positive.

  • Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Joe Kelly detailed a proposed $7 million purchase of a building to store human remains.

“What happened is, because there’s been a slowdown in the number of funerals and burials that are taking place, is that, for lack of a more delicate term, the storage in funeral homes and hospitals is, in some places, full and overflowing,” Kelly said. “We want to provide a facility where we can properly, safely and with the appropriate dignity and respect we think we owe our fellow Minnesotans and their families, to temporarily store them until their families are ready to lay them to final rest.

Comments ()