Minnesota officials: State working to contain possible coronavirus cases

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz didn’t mince words about the state’s first presumptive case of coronavirus.

"Today we learned that Minnesota’s first case of COVID-19 coronavirus is here," he told reporters on Friday. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the patient and their family at this time."

The governor and state health officials made it clear this was not unexpected.

"This is cause for concern, but not panic," Department of Health Commissioner Jan 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."

She says the infected person is a metro-area adult who developed symptoms on Feb. 25 and went to the doctor Thursday. Staffers at the public health laboratory confirmed the presence of the virus after submitted samples tested positive Friday afternoon.

1st COVID-19 case confirmed in Minnesota

A sample is being sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for final testing.

But Malcolm says they had "actionable" results, enough to begin a health investigation.

"The case is an older adult resident of Ramsey County who reported recent travel on a cruise ship with a known COVID-19 case," Malcolm says.

Authorities aren’t saying if the patient is a man or woman, or what cruise ship he or she was on.

That person, recovering in isolation at home, didn’t need to go to the hospital, officials say.

"This is a travel-related case of exposure," Malcolm says. "This is not a case of community exposure of unknown origin. That is a critical distinction."

Nevertheless, state and county health workers are now trying to identify who came into contact with that person.

Those individuals, in turn, will be asked to quarantine themselves for two weeks after their initial exposure.

Additionally, health inspectors will monitor them for fever and respiratory symptoms.

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"Our actions right now are focused on containment," says Kristen Ehresmann, the director of the health department’s infectious disease epidemiology, prevention, and control division. " What that means is we’re focusing on isolating the individual, as well as quarantining any contacts that are identified."

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

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

Malcolm notes, however, that Wisconsin was among the first states to report the virus. That was weeks ago, with only one case reported. Wisconsin still has only one case.

But Walz says local and state governments are ready.

"I’m confident Minnesota is prepared for this," he says. "It’s natural to feel concerned during a time like this, and the best way to address our concerns is to be as well informed as we possibly can."

"Are we now suddenly going to go from one to hundreds or thousands?" Malcolm asks. "That is certainly our hope to prevent that, and is not necessarily the trajectory we would see."