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City of Rochester responds to Gov. Walz COVID-19 action plan

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ROCHESTER, Minn. - A new action plan is in place to address issues with hospital capacity as well as expand Minnesota’s COVID-19 rapid testing network.

Governor Tim Walz detailed the plan on Friday as COVID cases across the state continue to rise.

The Minnesota Department of Health is reporting the weekly positivity rate is more than 8% which is the highest it’s been since before vaccines rolled out last year.

During a press conference, Walz said, "The idea that we're losing 25 Minnesotans a day to a preventable disease that is almost 99 plus percent preventable if we get a vaccine is unconscionable. We're better than this."

The National Guard is on alert to provide staffing support at long-term care facilities according to Walz. There will aslo be expanded access to the OVID-19 emergency staffing pool. That will allow facilities to request short-term emergency staffing if there’s a shortage of workers.

Walz added, “So, let's be very clear. No one can say we didn't anticipate this was coming. And no one can say there are not tools that could be used to fix that."

Rochester Mayor Kim Norton says she believes it’s important to have all hands on deck to ensure there's a safe place for those most impacted by COVID.

Norton explained, “I appreciate the response. The National Guard being on alert certainly is one opportunity but I hope we can deal with the longer term issues we have with our long-term care facilities and staffing but at the same time maybe this will be an incipient for that.”

Walz also announced the expansion of rapid testing options at community sites in Stillwater, Hutchinson, and Crookston, with three additional sites to follow next week. However, it’s not something Norton believes is necessary for Rochester at this time.

She added, “I assume he's putting the resources in the areas that need the most support. We do have high rates of spread down here but we also have world-class health facilities and many opportunities for people in our community to get tested.”

Governor Walz also announced additional COVID-19 rapid testing opportunities with 16 public health agencies across the state.

Olmsted County Public Health Department said it’s not one of the agencies but did say in a statement, “ We encourage all individuals looking for a COVID-19 test to find options, including at-home tests, on the MDH “Find Testing Location” website.”

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