MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota has recorded its first COVID-19-related death in a child, according to health department data released Monday, as Democratic Gov. Tim Walz weighs whether students should head back to school for learning in the fall.
The Minnesota Department of Health said the child was a 9-month-old in northeastern Clay County who had no existing health conditions and was not hospitalized. Two causes of death were listed: an upper and lower respiratory infection and a positive COVID test result.
Kris Ehresmann, the state's infectious disease director, said it was up to the medical examiner to comment on the significance of the positive COVID-19 test result. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been asked to investigate.
"We may learn more from CDC, but at this point we know that the child did have COVID and we are including it, unfortunately, in our death total," Ehresmann said.
Three other new deaths were reported, bringing the total number of confirmed COVID-19-related deaths in Minnesota to 1,545. An additional 922 cases were also reported, raising the state's total cases to 47,107. The figure for new cases set a daily record, but officials said they are moving to a new reporting system, which could impact numbers over the next few days.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
The Minnesota Senate voted 37-30 on Monday to approve a nonbinding resolution urging Walz to allow schools to reopen normally this fall by letting local school boards and administrators decide how to proceed. Several Democratic senators who opposed to the resolution, including Minority Leader Susan Kent, of Woodbury, cited the child's death.
But GOP Sen. Carla Nelson, of Rochester, said kids do better at school, with their teachers, in their classrooms. She said many struggled under the distance learning that Walz imposed in March. "My fear is that students are going to suffer irreparable damage -- they are not going to be able to catch up," she said.
Walz has said he would make a decision on whether to reopen schools by next Monday.
News of the child's death comes as state investigators announced that 14 bars and restaurants have received warning letters for violating Walz's order allowing for the safe reopening of businesses during the pandemic.
In an effort to keep businesses operating safely and control the spread of the coronavirus, investigators with the Department of Public Safety's Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division visited 919 restaurants and bars during a two-week sweep from July 4-13. They were specifically looking for violations in three areas of emphasis: employee mask requirements, social distancing guidelines for customer tables, and keeping capacity at no more than 50%.
They say that during the sweep, 10 bars and restaurants were found to be in violation of all three areas of emphasis. An additional four establishments received warning letters before the two-week sweep.
Those businesses in violation could be ordered to pay fines or could lose their liquor license.
Investigators also worked to educate those establishments on the guidelines. Solutions to keep restaurants and bars in compliance include marking areas for better social distancing, educating employees about wearing masks, canceling bands, and unplugging pool tables and dart machines to maintain social distance.
Investigators also found that many customers were violating seating guidelines. Under Walz's order, seating is limited to four people at one table, or six for immediate family members. Restaurants and bars reported that many customers moved seats or tables together so they could sit in larger groups.
"By educating establishments and the public, our hope is that it leads to better compliance," Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said in a statement. "We can all do our part to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep our businesses open by wearing a mask, social distancing and adhering to establishment seating limits."