Minnesota health officials and Gov. Tim Walz on Friday, May 15, said the reopening of Wisconsin bars this week could fuel increased numbers of coronavirus cases in Minnesota, particularly in border communities.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday struck that state's "safer-at-home" order, which led to the quick reopening of bars and taverns in the state that night. And patrons packed the bars to get their first drink in public after weeks of sheltering in place.

“This turns the state to chaos,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, told the New York Times in an interview about the Supreme Court ruling. “People will get sick. And the Republicans own the chaos.”

Now, the results of that decision could manifest themselves in Minnesota, Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

“We do expect it will affect us,” Malcolm told reporters. "We're monitoring what’s happening, in particular along the border."

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Malcolm said she expected some Minnesotans visited the bars as they began reopening, ahead of Minnesota's proposed timeline to reopen dine-in restaurants, bars, and other businesses next month. But the impact wasn't immediately clear.

In a radio address transcript posted online, Evers said: "Folks, deadly viruses don’t go away on their own and they don’t go away because the Supreme Court says so.

We cannot let this ruling undo all the work we have done and all the sacrifices Wisconsinites have made over these past few months."

Wisconsin on Friday reported 11 more deaths; bring the the state total to 445.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday reported 20 more Minnesotans had died from COVID-19, bringing the statewide fatality number to 683. Another 808 Minnesotans were confirmed positive for the illness.

North Dakota loosens up

Gov. Doug Burgum announced Friday, May 15, he is opening up the state to allow for larger gatherings of people.

Guidelines were still being finalized Friday, but he said they basically would allow an events venue to be at 50% of its capacity starting immediately, up to 250 people.

It would mean as the summer rolls around that weddings, receptions, banquets, sporting events, concerts and other larger gatherings can be held.

Packing plant affect

South Dakota reported 15 new cases in Brown County, home to the DemKota Ranch Beef plant, which appears to be struggling with an outbreak of the illness. State Epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton said Friday 106 employees of the plant have tested positive for the virus and 58 have recovered. Brown County has 173 cases among its residents, the third highest among counties in the state.

Outbreaks at packing plants have crippled the meat industry's ability to slaughter livestock, especially hogs, as outbreaks have forced some packing plants to shut down temporarily. With packing plants closed or slowed, farmers have had to kill livestock and compost the carcasses, wasting the meat

The New York Times reported that in Iowa, the nation’s largest pork-producing state, agricultural officials expect the backlog to reach 600,000 hogs over the next six weeks. In Minnesota, an estimated 90,000 pigs have been killed on farms since the meat plants began closing last month.

Around the region

  • Nationwide, 83,947 people have died of COVID-19 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an increase of 1,701 from Thursday.

  • Two more North Dakotans died of the virus Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 42. The North Dakota Department of Health on Friday, May 15, reported that positive tests for COVID-19 in Cass County have reached 1,032, with 43 new cases Thursday. There have been 1,761 positive cases statewide, with 52 new cases through Thursday. According to the report, 58.6% of total positive cases have been in Cass County, with 82.6% of new cases reported in the county.

  • South Dakota listed another fatality from COVID-19, a female in the 80-plus age range in Minnehaha County. South Dakota added 95 new known COVID-19 cases on Friday, for a total of 3,887.

  • The virus is also spreading in South Dakota's Oglala Lakota County, home to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The county's known cases doubled in a day, to six. The tribe remains in a standoff with Gov. Kristi Noem over checkpoints on state and federal roads on the reservation. Noem has said the checkpoints should be removed and the tribe has rejected the demand, although talks continue.

  • Ruth Lynfield, Minnesota state epidemiologist, said as more children across the country were admitted to hospitals after exhibiting symptoms of multi-system inflammatory syndrome, an inflammatory condition, the state hoped to track those patients. The disease could be related to the coronavirus. Symptoms include a fever that lasts longer than 24 hours, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, rashes or changes in skin color, swollen tongue, difficulty breathing and tiredness.

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