Expect ‘a winter, not a blizzard,’ says Gov. Walz about COVID-19 preparations

Gov. Tim Walz says Minnesotans should expect ‘not a blizzard, but a winter’ from the COVID-19 threat.

Authorities now say there are 77 confirmed cases in the state. Thirteen are healthcare workers, and one is a Minnesota House of Representative employee.

Seven people have been hospitalized, one in critical condition.

Barbershops, salons and spas closed through March 27 as part of governor’s COVID-19 executive order

In Wisconsin, the ABC station in Milwaukee is reporting 113 confirmed cases.

State health officials say the most important thing is for people to stay home if they feel sick.

"We have seen cases continue to increase," says Kris Ehresmann, the Director for Infectious Disease for the Minnesota Department of Health. "If you do have respiratory symptoms, or respiratory symptoms with a fever, our recommendation is to stay home, and you need to stay at home at least seven days."

Amid the rising numbers, Walz appears clearly unhappy with the federal government.

"I think at this point in time, my frustration, is around the lack of supplies," he says.

Walz: 32 Minnesotans on Grand Princess now returned home

The governor says he’s made three requests in ten days, including a personal call to Vice President Mike Pence, for more COVID-19 tests and other items.

"We’ve had to freeze 1,700 samples. We can’t test them," Walz says. "So now we are waiting. These are people that needed to be tested. The assumption is they needed to be tested for a reason. The criteria is pretty high."

The Department of Health says the lack of tests is because of a shortage of materials.

"There is both a global and national shortage of some of the materials that are necessary to do lab testing for COVID-19," Ehresmann says. "Our priorities for testing are hospitalized patients, health care workers, and individuals in congregate settings such as long-term care."

But what if you feel you may have been infected?

"From the moment you start having symptoms, you have to self-quarantine for a minimum of seven days," advises KSTP Medical Expert Dr. Archelle Georgiou.

Dr. Georgiou says you should also add another three days once your fever ends.

But there’s another wrinkle for anyone who’s had household contact with an infected person.

The CDC guidelines, she says, call for a 14-day self-quarantine. That’s longer than for the actual patient.

"The incubation period for the virus is between five days and 11-and-a-half days," Georgiou explains. "So the guidance is that you quarantine for 14 days to be sure after the exposure, you don’t develop symptoms."

Walz says Minnesota is not yet at the point where a mandatory shelter-in-place order is needed.

State officials, though, are warily watching the continuing COVID-19 threat.

"Person-to-person transmission, that is our greatest concern for having COVID-19 spread in Minnesota," Ehresmann says. "We know we can’t keep it out, it’s already here, but we’re trying to slow it down, so that our healthcare system and our infrastructure aren’t overwhelmed."