Situation Report COVID-19 Updates | May 4, 2020
Sunday marked the 37 th day of Minnesota’s Stay At Home Order. Today marked the next step in the easing into reopening, at least for some of us. The Pioneer Press wrote a nice article reviewing these past 5 weeks and “what it accomplished and what it didn’t.”
 
What have we gained? Minnesotans have followed the Stay At Home requirements more closely than most, such that we’ve pushed the curve out and actually flattened it – slowing the spread, at least for now. We’ve gotten a handle on testing, and should be able to reach the 5,000 tests/day goal. Our ICU bed capacity is up, as is our stockpile of supplies. 

The price we’ve paid? Nearly 594,000 Minnesotans filed unemployment claims by the end of April and untold businesses will shutter for good. Where isolation is less possible, and where we are most vulnerable, the losses have been high. More than 75% of the state’s 428 deaths have been residents of long term care facilities, and now we know that asymptomatic spread is the virus’s greatest weapon: we can be contagious for up to 48 hours before any onset of symptoms. Peak in Minnesota is anticipated to be sometime in July; what we know for sure is that this is far from over.
 
The hope I have for you is what I hold on to for myself: the vision of our future in which we all stand together and shout, “we are still here!” Be encouraged friends.
 
SHOUT-OUTS, #BusinessDoingGood
  • The Sheridan Story: Here is an opportunity for even more of you to do good. The Sheridan Story is now partnering with more than 30 school districts in Minnesota and western Wisconsin to provide 100,000 meals each week for the students and families. You can donate today directly to help provide meals to the hundreds of thousands of children increasingly facing food insecurity during this pandemic.
 
  • Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) Board of Education recently accepted an $800,000 grant from 3M, given to the District to support Distance Learning initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to this generous grant, 3M also has donated $25,000 to support the SPPS meal service program, which recently surpassed serving 1,000,000 meals since March 18.

  • Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Saint Paul is offering rooms at $70/night for hospitals/healthcare workers, and they are working with each industry on a case-by-case basis.

  • The SPACC Foundation is launching a fund to administer a grant program for nonprofit business associations and chambers of commerce, serving COVID-19 impacted member communities, with operating support. 501c6 organizations are not eligible for Federal relief programs and many of the smallest businesses are especially impacted and also unable to obtain Federal recovery support. In our region, people of color represent a large percentage of the owners and employees of these smaller businesses. Funding through the SPACC Foundation COVID-19 Relieve Fund will allow the Foundation to support chambers and business associations, as well as these smallest companies. Any gifts given via the #GiveAtHomeMN platform, from May 1 through May 8, 2020 will be directed to the SPACC Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund and in turn directed to chambers and businesses. 
 
Minneapolis Fed Survey - Please take this 5-minute survey to help the Minneapolis Fed better understand business conditions at your firm at this critically important time. All responses are anonymous and the survey will help the Minneapolis Fed and President Neel Kashkari better understand the effect on individual firms as well as local, regional, and state economies more broadly which, in turn, will help the Federal Reserve System shape monetary policy to help businesses weather this economic shock. If you get this survey from multiple sources, please respond to the survey only once.
 
Today’s Updates - Governor’s 2pm Media Briefing
  • We ended April much better prepared in terms of ICU capacity and ventilator capacity. In raw numbers, we have greater capacity than does IL, with a population 2.5 times larger.
  • Wanted to prepare us that we will continue to see numbers grow. Wants to ask us all to keep in mind: when we test more, we will find more.
  • Governor Walz reinforced the focus on safely re-opening business across more sectors. He feels the urgency and indicated he will make a decision on restaurants and hospitality “within the next couple of weeks.”
  • Expect more information tomorrow about phasing in elective medical procedures and updated budget projections.

  • Commissioner of DEED, Steve Grove shared that the hallmark of us getting this process right is thoughtful planning.
  • The preparedness response has been on short term: crisis oriented metrics such as hospital care and PPE supply. Now have moved to medium range planning: how to reskill for jobs that lie ahead. Next is long term planning, to reimagine Minnesota’s economy to be more equitable and inclusive than ever before. This crisis has made those inequities worse. We need to “bounce back better.”
  • Focus on restaurant and hospitality industries.
  • Abdi Kahin, SPACC member and owner of Afro Deli, 5 restaurants in the metro spoke in support of the Governor’s approach thus far, thanked him for listening to feedback. Emphasized the importance of safety for customers and employees, and his desire to open as soon as possible.
  • Liz Rammer, President and CEO of Hospitality Minnesota. Represents over 2,000 restaurants, lodging facilities, campgrounds, BWCA, outfitters, and more. Many are independent, and together more than 300,000 employees are in this industry. They hanging the balance, and we must do this right. Rammer acknowledged the monumental hit the hospitality industry has taken in the face of this crisis. More than ½ face certain and permanent closure within the next 2 months, given the current course. Hospitality businesses are ready to open now, ready to approach this new normal. They understand they need to engage in a meaningful and safe way. Working with the Governor to draw up guidelines based on input and expertise of both government agencies and industry colleagues.
 
  • May 3-9 is National Travel and Tourism Week. Note from Visit Saint Paul: This year, National Travel & Tourism Week, May 3-9, is more important than ever and honors the spirit of travel in recognition of the industry’s strength, selflessness and resiliency. Not only is it not postponed this year, it is a great platform to communicate the importance of the visitor economy, even in the face of adversity. Although we cannot meet in person, we can stay connected, united and supportive of each other from afar, rallying around the #SpiritOfTravel. Ramsey County tourism generates nearly $2.3 billion in annual sales while employing more than 30,000 private sector jobs. According to Explore Minnesota research, statewide tourism generates $16 billion in gross sales, while tourism advertising’s impact provides an $18 to $1 state and local tax return on investment. That’s a great ROI!
 
  • Learned on Friday that Minnesota will get soon get 47,000 swabs per week from FEMA, which will mean 190,000 swabs in the month of May.
 
  • Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir was cleared by U.S. regulators for emergency use in Covid-19 patients, becoming the first medication backed by early clinical data to be made available to fight the novel coronavirus. Remdesivir reduced the time it took hospitalized Covid-19 patients to recover in an interim analysis of an ongoing study. The Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency-use authorization, President Trump said on Friday, a step by which the agency can allow products to be used without full data on their safety and efficacy. “This was lighting speed in terms of getting something approved,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. “From clinical trial to getting it authorized, it was 90 days.”
 
  • In this second round of PPP, loans are skewing smaller. The SBA released a report over the weekend, showing in the first 5 days of the relaunch the agency approved a cumulative loan volume of more than $175.7B across 2.2M loans. That’s about 57% of the $310B allotted for the second phase.
  • Round 2 application window opened last Monday, April 27.
  • The SBA reports 5,432 lenders approved those loans. The average loan size is just under $60K.
  • In Minnesota, lenders approved $2.196B of funds across 37,267 loans, ranking us 18th among all US states and territories for # of loans approved, and 21st for total loan volume. 
  • In the Great Lakes Region (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI), MN is 4th behind IL, MI, and OH. 
  • Other states on the high end:
  • CA: 320K loans totaling $33.2B
  • FL:186K loans totaling $12.2B
  • TX: 175K loans totaling $12.7B
  • NY: 164K loans totaling $17.6B 
  • Other states on the low end:
  • AS: 61 loans totaling $3.6M
  • MP: 243 loans totaling $20.4M
  • AK 3,920 loans totaling $338.7M
  • VT: 3,724 loans totaling $191.8M
  • Of the loans approved so far, Minnesota accounts for about 2% of all the applications and approximately 1% of the dollar value.
  • In the first round, more than 48,300 Minnesota businesses received loans totaling $9 billion, with an average loan of $186K.
  • Federal officials have announced they will review any loan over $2M, to ensure the funds are directed properly. Some large recipients from the first round have since indicated they will return the money.
 
In Congress
  • Congress is turning its attention this week to negotiations over another round of economic stimulus, with $2.9 trillion already allocated; amount of additional funding is yet TBD. President Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said Sunday the administration is not in a hurry to push out another major package of stimulus until there is a clearer idea of how the economy is responding to the slow re-opening.
 
  • The single biggest amount of money being talked about so far in the next phase of pandemic relief is aid to state and local governments. House Speaker Pelosi has suggested the need could be as much as $1 trillion, though she has not committed to that amount. Senate Majority Leader McConnell said last week that he is open to providing some aid so long as it does not cover pension liabilities and other shortfalls he says are unrelated to the pandemic.
 
In the State Legislature
  • It was a busy week in Minnesota politics, with major announcements from Governor Walz and a good deal of activity at the Legislature. Since the Minnesota Constitution requires the regular session to end on May 18th, we have only a little more than two weeks to go. There were no legislative hearings scheduled for this past weekend, but we do expect there to be weekend activity over the next two weekends as legislators rush to try to finish key pieces of work before heading home for summer campaigning.
 
  • Legislators are busy working on many COVID related items, but also are still looking to pass major legislation like a bonding bill, a tax bill, and a supplemental budget bill. Various environment, energy, education and health topics also are still receiving public hearings. Hearings are being held via Zoom with legislators, staff and the public all participating remotely, which is awkward and less than ideal in terms of public participation. Many groups have taken to submitting testimony in letter form prior to a hearing, to ensure their views are on the record.
 
  • Tomorrow MMB will issue an updated budget projection that will give the Governor and legislators additional guidance on Minnesota’s budget situation. It is predicted there could be a significant deficit due to shrinking revenues and high COVID spending.
 
In Other News
  • A Gerdau steel mill in St. Paul will drastically downsize starting in June, a move that will affect the jobs of about 222 people. About 300 people work at the mill now, Gerdau said. The move will close the location's melt shop, which creates molten steel, and the rolling mill, which creates sheets of metal. The mill will continue to operate its steel finishing processes. The move doesn't seem to be related to the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout — Gerdau told employees about the move in early March, before most U.S. businesses began cutting back in response to the disease.
 
 
COVID-19 update as of 5/4/2020
Confirmed cases in Minnesota: from 5,730 to 7,234
Confirmed cases in U.S. (as of 5/4): over 1.1M
Confirmed cases globally (as of 5/4): over 3.5M
Cases requiring hospitalization: fr om 1,096 to 1,271
#s currently hospitalized: from 369 to 396
#s no longer needing to be isolated: f rom 2,282 to 4,212
#s tested: from 74,829 to 85,941
Total deaths in Minnesota : from 371 to 428
Total deaths in U.S. (updated 5/4): almost 68,000
Total deaths globally (updated 5/4): over 247,000
Cases in Counties represented:
Hennepin County: from 1,829 to 2,298
Ramsey County: fr om 405 to 535
Dakota County: from 171 to 215
Washington County: from 133 to 152
 
 
RESOURCES
The interactive Minnesota COVID-19 Public Dashboard can be found  here
 
SBA Info:
 
Local Partner Info
 
DLI Worker Protections Pages
 
Visit our e vents page for webinars and events and the Ramsey County Means Business page for information to help businesses navigate resources during this pandemic. If you need more personalized assistance, contact our Rapid Response Team to assist you in finding an answer.


Be well!


B Kyle
President/CEO
Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce