1st COVID-19 case confirmed in Minnesota

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The first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Minnesota.

Health officials confirmed the case Friday afternoon. Earlier in the day, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) had said the first 36 cases tested in the state had come back negative. In total, 48 cases have tested negative in the state and one positive.

Gov. Tim Walz and MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm held a press conference at 4 p.m. Friday to provide additional information.

MDH said the presumptive case involves an older resident of Ramsey County who recently traveled on a cruise ship with a known COVID-19 case. The patient first started developing symptoms on Feb. 25 but first sought health care Thursday.

Samples were collected from the patient and sent to the MDH Public Health Lab for testing earlier Friday where results came back positive. MDH said it’s still awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to MDH, the patient has been isolated at home and is recovering, and the department is working with St. Paul-Ramsey County Public Health to provide support to the patient. MDH is also working to identify and contact all people the patient had come in contact with, and they will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

"This is cause for concern, but not panic," Malcolm said. "The likelihood that we would see one or more cases certainly has been going up in recent days, as we’ve seen the increases in the number of cases in other states."

Health officials say they’re bracing for more novel coronavirus cases to surface.

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"The State of Minnesota has been working around the clock to prepare for this and I am confident that our Department of Health is up to the challenge," Walz said. "Our Administration is collaborating across state agencies and remains in close contact with both federal and local partners as we monitor developments with this outbreak. Our state is fortunate to have a strong public health sector and world-class health care providers who are working hard to keep Minnesotans safe and healthy."

Malcolm reminded the public that everyone can help slow the spread of COVID-19 by taking precautions, including:

  • Covering your coughs and sneezes with your sleeve or a tissue rather than your hand,
  • Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water,
  • Staying home when sick,
  • Staying informed by visiting MDH and CDC websites regularly.

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"State and local public health officials are working hard to slow the spread of this virus and protect Minnesotans, but based on how the outbreak has developed elsewhere we need to be prepared for some level of community spread," Malcolm said. "It is critical that all of us do our part to slow the spread of this virus by covering coughs, washing hands, and staying home when sick with cold or flu-like symptoms. We also need to prepare for community mitigation measures like telework arrangements and temporary school closures should they become necessary."

The state lab will continue testing right through the weekend. That facility has the capability of testing 100 samples a day.

Since the outbreak started in China in December 2019, more than 100,000 cases and 3,400 deaths have been reported in more than 80 countries. That total includes 233 U.S. cases and 14 deaths as of Friday morning.

A COVID-19 hotline was also set up and can be reached at 651-201-3920.

Other counties around the state are also making plans to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Dakota County held a meeting Friday with local, state and federal leaders to discuss what’s working and what isn’t. So far, they say one of the clear needs is an increase in funding.

"We would never say to a fire department and say, "OK, we’ve given you three trucks, and so you’ve got them now, but we are out of money so we are not going to fund you to maintain your trucks, and if it needs to be fixed, we’ll talk about it at the time of the fire," said Cheryl Peterson-Kroeber, the Minnesota Department of Health Director of Emergency Preparedness.

Counties are in a hurry to train staff as phones ring off the hook with questions about the virus.

"This week, we trained our front desk staff, which are not nurses, they’re just going to be triaging the calls, and then next week we’ll start to have nurses actually picking up the calls that might be more clinical in nature," said Gina Adasiewicz, Deputy Director at Dakota County Public Health Department.

There’s also a focus on assisted-living and long-term care facilities.

"Once these viruses are circulating in these communities we need to be thinking about limiting visitors who go in, we need to be screening visitors," said Minnesota State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield.

Lynfield said the state wants to use its testing kits judiciously. It’s also starting a push for tele-medicine so people don’t have to come into a doctor’s office if they’re not critical, which can be especially helpful for rural communities.

Many efforts around the state continue to be made to try to limit the spread of the virus and make sure resources are there for those who need them.

KSTP’s complete COVID-19 coverage