On a day when President Donald Trump issued a call to "liberate Minnesota" and protestors gathered outside the home of Gov. Tim Walz, the state health department reported positive COVID-19 cases topped 2,000 in the state.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday, April 17, reported 159 new cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota and 17 more deaths reported from the illness and its complications. That increase in deaths marks the largest one-day increase to date.

State health authorities said 2,071 total cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Minnesota of 43,053 tests administered. Health officials note that the number likely undercounts the total number of Minnesotans who have or have had the disease due to lack of testing resources in the state.

In total, 111 have died from the illness or complications and 223 were hospitalized Friday.

Trump in a series of tweets called for the "liberation" of Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia, states controlled by Democratic governors that have issued orders limiting travel and social gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic and states viewed as potential battleground states in the 2020 presidential contest.

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The comment came a day after the president presented a plan to gradually reopen businesses around the country once adequate testing becomes available to assess whether business owners and workers can go back to more normal operations with social distancing measures in place. The guidance allowed for flexibility for governors to roll out plans that fit the individual needs of their states.

And the tweet came hours before conservative protesters held a demonstration outside Walz’ residence in St. Paul, urging state officials to reopen the state's economy.

Protesters hoisted signs that read "let my people go" and "end the shutdown" and urged the governor to reopen shuttered sectors of the state's economy. A handful donned surgical masks and practiced social distancing, while dozens of others stood arm to arm on the sidewalks and lawns outside the residence, yelling, "open up" as cars blared their horns.

Minnesota and all but a handful of states around the country have entered into stay at home orders during the pandemic to limit the illness' spread and potential to overwhelm the state's hospitals. Walz has extended the order in Minnesota until May 4 and on Friday, minutes after Trump's comment, announced that golf courses, boating resources, shooting ranges and public and private parks and trails would reopen with new constraints to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

North Dakota

North Dakota's daily coronavirus count jumped by 46, making Thursday, April 16, the largest day-over-day jump since the first case was reported, according to numbers released Friday.

The North Dakota Department of Health reported the state had a total 439 cases as of Thursday. Thursday also broke the previous day's single batch record of positive cases, which was 28 on Wednesday.

The day-over-day increase was 18, up from the previous record of 14 reported for Tuesday. On that day, the case count rose from 10 on Monday to 24 on Tuesday.

Each day, the health department releases the previous day's numbers. In total, North Dakota has conducted 12,342 tests, putting its positive case rate at about 3.5%.

Thursday's batch included 638 tests, meaning the positive case rate for that set was 7.2%.

Gov. Doug Burgum previously said this week he anticipated the curve could climb as he announced business restrictions would continue through the end of April.

As of Thursday, there were 258 active cases, 16 people currently hospitalized and nine deaths, though Thursday's numbers didn't bring any new fatalities. The state said 172 people have recovered from the virus.

South Dakota

South Dakota’s coronavirus case count rose 100 to 1,411 individuals now known to have caught COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus. All but two cases were in Minnehaha and Lincoln counties, and most of those were tied to the Smithfield plant outbreak near Sioux Falls.

State officials are also investigating a COVID-19 case at the Demkota Ranch Beef processing plant in Aberdeen, said Dr. Josh Clayton, state epidemiologist. The state is investigating people in close contact with the diagnosed individual and would make "specific recommendations" to the plan to reduce transmission of the virus, he said.

The state Department of Health is now listing negative test totals by county, on the state's coronavirus information website: covid.sd.gov. Clayton said the state didn't have the number of negative tests processed at the Smithfield plant.

The virus sent an additional eight South Dakotans to the hospital, for a total of 63. Seven state residents have died from COVID-19 and 457 have recovered.

The Smithfield plant is one of the largest in the nation, is responsible for 5% of U.S. pork production, and has been designated an essential facility by federal officials. State officials said Friday they had identified 36 more workers infected with the virus, for a total of 634 cases among the plant's workforce of 3,700.

Officials have also discovered 143 infected individuals among those in close contact with the workers, such as family members, for a total of 777 cases now linked to the pork plant.

Wisconsin

The first death of a Bayfield County resident from COVID-19 was confirmed Friday.

The Bayfield County Public Health Department said Friday the victim was 78, had no known contact with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 case and had not traveled out of the area.

The individual had been hospitalized for more than three weeks and had not recently traveled in the community.

Statewide, 206 people have died of COVID-19 in Wisconsin. The death in Bayfield County was not included in the Wisconsin Department of Public Health's daily update on Friday, which reported 205 deaths. Wisconsin has 4,045 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Around the region

  • There have been 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the JBS pork plant in Worthington, Minn., according to UFCW Local 663, the union representing workers at the meatpacking plant in southwest Minnesota. There are about 2,000 workers at the plant, many of whom work in close proximity with each other on a daily basis. As of Friday afternoon, the JBS pork plant was still up and running, and according to Gov. Tim Walz had already implemented many operational changes, including giving out personal protective equipment to its workers.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced Thursday that golf courses in the state could open with restrictions and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz followed suit Friday.
  • As of 5 p.m. Friday, 19,200 people have launched the Care-19 app using North Dakota as home domain. Location hits were appearing in nearly every state in the U.S.
  • A majority of nonfaculty staff at the University of North Dakota will see a substantial reduction in hours in the coming weeks, officials said. In most cases, staff may see their hours reduced to zero, but they will remain employed by the university and will be able to keep their health insurance and other benefits.

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