SEOC UPDATE #22: MINNESOTANS, BUSINESSES STILL SUPPORTING EACH OTHER AS COVID-19 OUTBREAK CONTINUES

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Minnesotans continue to volunteer, give blood, donate personal protective equipment (PPE) and take care of each other during the COVID-19. State agencies also have a variety of resources available for Minnesotans struggling financially or with feeding their families.  

 

The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) was fully activated to support all state agencies with their COVID-19 response following Gov. Walz’s March 13 executive order issuing a Peacetime State of Emergency in response to the nationwide pandemic. Staff from state agencies and volunteer organizations are staffing the SEOC either physically or virtually to keep Minnesotans safe and coordinate efforts to provide essential services and information. 

 

The SEOC continues to support the state hotline. The hotline received 112 calls on April 15. The hotline operates from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. State employees are staffing the hotline and are answering calls at either 651-297-1304 or 800-657-3504. 

 

Food, financial assistance available during pandemic

Minnesotans who are struggling to feed themselves and their families or make ends meet should know that help is available and accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

·       Information about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other hunger resources is collected on the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ new food emergency webpage.

·       Minnesotans can fill out a SNAP application online at ApplyMN.dhs.mn.gov. For help applying or additional food resources, contact the Food Helpline at 888-711-1151 or visit Hunger Solutions.

·       DHS is eliminating paperwork, in-person meetings and other requirements that would be difficult or impossible to meet under social distancing restrictions, for economic assistance programs including the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), General Assistance (GA), Housing Support and Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA).

·       More information can be found in this news release.

 

Want to quit smoking to protect yourself from COVID-19? Use Quit Partner

Using nicotine can compromise a person’s immune system, putting them at higher risk for severe COVID-19-related illnesses. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is reminding Minnesotans who want to quit smoking, vaping or chewing to use Quit Partner, a free resource that offers free coaching, a 24/7 chatline and access to other helpful tools. Learn more on the Quit Partner website or call 800-QUIT-NOW.

 

Telephone, wireless or internet discounts available

Several programs offer Minnesota residents with low income - including those recently impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic - monthly discounts on landline telephone, wireless or internet services and access to specialized equipment.

  • The federal Lifeline program and Minnesota’s state Telephone Assistance Plan (TAP) are two telecommunication discounts available to income eligible residents. The Telephone Equipment Distribution (TED) program offers specialized equipment at no cost to qualifying persons. 
  • Contact the Minnesota PUC’s Consumer Affairs Office at 651-296-0406, 800-657-3782 and consumer.puc@state.mn.us for help in accessing both Lifeline and TAP or learn more at https://mn.gov/puc/telecommunications/telephone-discounts/
  • For more information about the TED program or to apply, call 800-657-3663 (voice or your preferred relay service), 651-964-1514 (videophone) or visit the TED Program Home Page.
  • For information about broadband service options in your area, contact the Office of Broadband Development at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development at 651-259-7610 or deed.broadband@state.mn.us or learn more at https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/

 

Taking action: Ways Minnesotans can help

  • Individuals who have small quantities of new, unopened and unused personal protective equipment (PPE) to donate to COVID-19 response efforts should contact their county or tribal emergency manager. Examples of recommended PPE items are gowns, masks, respirators, face shields and gloves. Find your local emergency manager using this interactive map. (Please note: Emergency managers cannot accept opened or used PPE.)
  • Other than PPE items, donations of supplies and goods are discouraged. Making a cash donation to a non-profit is the best donation.
  • Individuals who would like to volunteer should contact an organization registered with the Minnesota Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (MnVOAD).
  • Businesses who would like to offer resources, supplies or personnel to COVID-19 response efforts should complete this distribution form or emailhsem.ppp@state.mn.us. Submissions will be reviewed by SEOC personnel. Businesses will be contacted if there is a need for the identified resources.

 

Don’t wait: MNsure's COVID-19 emergency special enrollment period for uninsured Minnesotans ends Tuesday

Uninsured Minnesotans have until 11:59 p.m. on April 21 to enroll in coverage through MNsure’s COVID-19 Emergency Special Enrollment Period. Those who enroll via this SEP will have coverage that retroactively begins April 1. Minnesotans can shop and compare plans and see if they qualify for financial help to pay for their plan by using MNsure’s plan comparison tool. All four medical insurance companies that sell private health insurance plans on MNsure are waiving co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles related to COVID-19 diagnostic testing, and cost sharing for in-network COVID-19 hospitalization.

  • Minnesotans who have recently lost or will lose insurance through their employer may qualify for a special enrollment period to enroll in a plan through MNsure. To enroll, individuals must contact MNsure and pick a plan within 60 days of losing employer coverage. To avoid a gap in coverage, Minnesotans can contact MNsure up to 60 days in advance of their employer’s plan ending to begin the enrollment process. This special enrollment period is available year-round to qualifying individuals.
  • Minnesotans who experience another qualifying life event (such as marriage, birth or adoption of a child, or a move) may also be eligible to shop for coverage. Low- or no-cost coverage is available through Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare for those who qualify. Enrollment in these programs is open year-round and provides comprehensive coverage. Members of a federally recognized American Indian tribe can also sign up at any time year-round on MNsure.org.
  • The MNsure Contact Center is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, at 651-539-2099 or 855-366-7873
    • Extended hours: Contact Center open until 7 p.m. on April 21
  • MNsure has a statewide network of expert assisters who can help Minnesotans apply and enroll, free of charge
  • MNsure's online help tools can be used to access frequently requested services.
  • If you have questions on what your plan covers, or how to use your benefits at this important time, contact your insurance company.
     

Red Cross: Supporting Minnesota communities & partners every day  

  • People affected by local disasters, mostly home fires, across Minnesota can continue to rely on Red Cross responders, mostly volunteers, to support them with relief assistance even during this COVID-19 pandemic environment. Since March 1, Minnesota Red Cross volunteers have responded to 83 home fires helping more than 350 people.
  • People who need blood transfusion because of cancer treatment, trauma, and other emergencies can continue to rely on Red Cross blood donors, including hundreds of first-time donors in Minnesota for lifesaving blood. As of April 15, nearly 20,000 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in more than 550,000 fewer blood donations. 
  • Our emergency response partners can continue to rely on Red Cross support as the severe weather season kicks up across our state. We are ready to help provide disaster relief if there’s a need in our Minnesota communities. We encourage people to text “GETEMERGENCY” to download our free and all-inclusive Emergency App for weather alerts and preparedness information. 

 

When faced with choice of tornado or virus, choose the storm shelter, health officials say

During Severe Weather Awareness Week, MDH has received questions about whether or not storm shelters at manufactured home parks will remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic. MDH is requiring that storm shelters at manufactured home parks remain open to residents so they can seek shelter in the event of a tornado. 

  • Thousands of Minnesotans live in manufactured home parks or mobile home parks. These homes can be particularly vulnerable to damage – and their residents to injury – if a tornado strikes their community. MDH is recommending that manufactured home park residents use those shelters whenever possible.
  • Your first priority should be to protect yourself from the immediate life and safety risk posed by a tornado. The rule of thumb is that if you would have sought protection in a storm shelter last year during a tornado, you should do so again this year. 
  • There are several familiar “slow the spread” measures that should be taken by those going to storm shelters:
    • Practice social distancing of 6 feet from others, if possible
    • Wear cloth face masks to help protect you and others
    • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve
    • Don’t touch your face, including your mouth, nose and eyes with hands that aren't cleaned

 

COVID-19 deaths close to 100 mark

  • 1,912 lab-confirmed cases in Minnesota — an increase of 103 cases since April 15.  
  • 94 reported deaths — an increase of seven deaths from April 15.
  • 213 patients are currently hospitalized with 103 in intensive care — an increase of 10 people in ICU since April 15
  • 1,020 patients have been released from isolation.
  • Learn more about the latest lab-diagnosed cases on the COVID-19 public dashboard.

 

Minnesota sees an increase in people walking, bicycling

While data show a reduction in vehicle traffic on roadways since Gov. Walz’s Stay at Home Order, the opposite is true for people walking and bicycling.

  • Walking and bicycling are up 72 percent statewide since the March 13 peacetime state of emergency declaration, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). The increase is higher, at 83 percent, in greater Minnesota. Walking and bicycling facilities in the Twin Cities are the busiest in the state, and even those areas are seeing a 59 percent increase on average.

 

Traffic volumes remain significantly low statewide

MnDOT continues to monitor traffic volumes statewide. 

  • Metro area: Traffic volumes on April 15 were down 37 percent compared to Wednesday averages for April 2019.
  • Statewide: Traffic volumes on April 15 were down 33 percent compared to Wednesday averages for April 2019.
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