ST. PAUL – While residents of long-term care facilities still make up a majority of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota, new data shows that efforts to identify and contain the spread of the virus in congregate care settings have been successful.

State officials Tuesday released new data outlining the five-point battle plan to combat the impact of COVID-19 on residents of long-term care facilities, individuals considered particularly vulnerable to serious complications from the virus.

Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan announced the plan on May 7. Prior to the announcement, state officials had been working with long-term care providers maintain strict infection control measures to help reduce the risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19 in facilities.

According to new MDH data:

  • Half of Minnesota’s 368 nursing homes have never had a reported case of COVID-19.
  • 24-percent of Minnesota’s nursing homes currently have an active outbreak.
  • 77-percent of Minnesota’s 1,692 assisted living facilities have never had a reported case.
  • Eight percent of Minnesota’s assisted living facilities currently have an active outbreak. An outbreak is defined as one or more cases.

The growth in the number of facilities reporting a new outbreak has slowed significantly in recent months. In May, COVID-19 cases were reported at an average of 23 new facilities per day. Currently, the number of new facilities reporting cases has dropped to an average of six.

The death rate in long-term care facilities has also seen a sharp decline in recent weeks. During the week of May 17-23, 137 people died in congregate living settings. During the week of July 12-17, the number had dropped to 13.

Facilities with both large and small outbreaks are reported to have successfully stopped the spread of the virus. Of the total 1,165 outbreak facilities, 61 percent have had 1-2 cases to date. Of these, 75 percent have had no COVID-19 cases for 28 days. As for the 95 facilities with larger outbreaks of 20 or more cases, 54 percent have been free of COVID-19 cases for 28 days.

“With an aggressive multi-pronged strategy, this battle plan is helping ensure Minnesota’s long-term care facilities are more resilient and better prepared to contain the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Walz. “We’ve made progress, but there’s still more work to do."

“COVID-19 is still part of our lives, and there will continue to be cases, including in long-term care facilities,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “But we’ve made progress. We’re better positioned to limit the spread of COVID-19 and continue to improve every day."

Malcolm says health officials will maintain their focus on infection prevention.

“We’re really proud and impressed at the progress that’s been made through all this hard work,” Malcolm said. “And, we know that even though the majority of facilities have not and do not have cases currently, COVID is with us, it’s going to be with us, and as we see community spread, it’s frankly inevitable that there will be more cases in long-term care settings.”

On June 17, health officials began allowing window and outdoor visits at long-term care facilities with certain limitations. On July 10, the MDH released guidance allowing expanded access to people considered essential caregivers.