Minnesota Unemployment Claims Jump as COVID-19 Cases Rise to 77


(Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota saw a sharp jump in applications for unemployment insurance after Gov. Tim Walz ordered restaurants, bars, theaters, fitness clubs and other places of public amusement closed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Department of Employment and Economic Development took more than 2,000 applications per hour Tuesday, compared with about 40 to 50 per hour last week, said Jim Hegman, the state’s unemployment insurance director. The number of applications this week topped 31,000 by Tuesday afternoon, compared with a more typical 500 for this time of year, he said.

The Minnesota Department of Health said 77 residents had tested positive for the virus as of Wednesday. Infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann acknowledged the figure does not represent the total number of cases because not everyone who is infected gets tested. Three patients were hospitalized as of Tuesday.

With the number of hospitalized cases expected to grow, a long-term care hospital in St. Paul will be converted into a specialized treatment center to keep infected patients out of other hospitals. M Health Fairview said it plans to expand Bethesda Hospital from 50 beds to 90 to provide specialty care for COVID-19 patients. The facility will have 35 intensive care beds and ventilators, and 55 medical-surgical beds.

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