Minnesota's Martin County, on the state's southern border, has 24 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, far outpacing many other outstate counties.

At just 20,000 residents, the agricultural region has 24 confirmed cases of the virus and two deaths, according to Martin County Sheriff Jeffrey Markquart. (The Minnesota Department of Health website posts 23 cases.)

That's more than the 22 cases in Anoka County, which, at 350,000 residents, is 17 times more populated.

"Martin County does appear to be a hotspot," said Doug Schultz of the Minnesota Department of Health. "It was one of the first counties to have evidence of community transmission — in fact, the first two cases in the county did not have clear sources of exposure, so were considered community transmission."

The state added 53 more cases of COVID-19 to its confirmed case count, bringing the state total to 629 cases, a number widely believed to be an undercount. The state also reported two more deaths, both from Hennepin County.

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Health officials articulated on Tuesday, March 31, a goal of expanding the statewide ventilator-equipped ICU supply by 2,000 beds and enough general-use so-called medical-surgical beds to accommodate 2,750 others.

Four counties reported cases for the first time on Tuesday: Carlton, Traverse, Lyon and Brown, with Winona County having doubled its case count from five to 10 cases in one day.

North Dakota

Cass County now has more cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, than any other county in North Dakota.

The North Dakota Department of Health announced 17 new cases of illness Tuesday, March 31, including eight in Cass County. A ninth Cass County case was confirmed earlier Tuesday, but the department later determined the patient lived out of state. Cass, the most populous county in the state, which contains most of the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area, now has 31 known cases.

Gov. Doug Burgum also announced Tuesday that the state's 175 public and private school districts will be beginning the implementation of "distance learning" plans Wednesday.

The total positive tests for the virus in North Dakota is up to 126, however the department lists 30 people as having recovered from the illness.

Job Service North Dakota has received more than 24,600 claims for unemployment benefits over the last 13 days, which is more than in all of 2019, Burgum said.

South Dakota

With community spread in 15 counties and the virus confirmed in 30 of its 66 counties, South Dakota is expecting 10-15 Abbott ID NOW rapid-test systems and the supplies to operate them, state officials said. The devices would give the state the ability to quickly diagnose people on-site.

The state had seven new coronavirus cases, boosting its total to 108.

Noem said the state would seek to prioritize rapid testing in tribal populations and "underserved areas."

Lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have given county commissions the same authority as municipalities to pass ordinances or resolutions to suppress the spread of COVID-19.

Around the region

  • Wisconsin has 1,351 cases with 16 deaths, the most being in Milwaukee County with 674 confirmed cases and six deaths. Dane County, with the county seat Madison, has 194 cases.

  • Sanford Health is launching a plan to support many of its employees amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Sioux Falls-based health system’s aid effort, dubbed the Sanford Family Stability Plan, mainly targets hourly employees. It includes a one-time cash bonus of up to $300, paid health care premiums through June and flexibility with paid time off.

  • Fargo-based Appareo Systems, a company known for its high-tech aviation and agricultural electronics entrepreneurship, has stepped up to manufacture machines developed at the University of Minnesota to supplement hospital ventilators in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Production at Appareo could start late this week.

  • Medical marijuana patients in Minnesota won't have their enrollment in the state's medical cannabis program expire until after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday.

  • Tribal, county and city governments in central South Dakota have expressed concern that nonresident anglers are ignoring coronavirus-induced stay-at-home orders to visit areas along the Missouri River to chase the spring walleye bite. Those officials are also frustrated that the state’s Game, Fish and Parks Department isn’t doing enough to deter nonresidents from using South Dakota’s waters.

  • Walz extended the licenses of peace officers, firefighters and security officers whose licenses were set to expire and waived continuing education requirements during the peacetime emergency.

  • Tattersall Distilling, Du Nord Craft Spirits and Brother Justus Whiskey Company of Minnesota are expected to ramp up production to a combined 9,000 gallons of hand sanitizer a week. Other Twin Cities-area distilleries recently announced plans to become emergency hand sanitizer producers as well. To the north in Duluth, Vikre Distillery is doing the same.

  • Riverview Place, a retirement community in Fargo, is testing all residents and staff for COVID-19 after a resident who lived there died at the Fargo VA Medical Center last Thursday.

  • A Moose Lake inmate has become the first person in Minnesota's prison system to test positive for COVID-19.

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