How MDH is working to protect potential coronavirus patients

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The Minnesota Department of Health said it’s currently monitoring five people for coronavirus. That number is ever-changing. These people don’t have symptoms, but, the department has already formally tested three Minnesotans who did, and all three tests came back negative.

It’s all an on-going effort. "It’s constantly changing," said Kris Ehresmann, Director of Infectious Disease for the Minnesota Department of Health.

The number of people the department is monitoring for the coronavirus is in flux. But, in each case, even if there are no symptoms, a person is watched closely for 14 days from the time they leave China.

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Now, the department has sent out a health alert.

"It’s a message that goes through our public health partners to clinics and health systems in their jurisdiction," said Ehresmann.

It’s directing medical facilities to ask about patients’ recent travel, and: "If you see people with fever, respiratory symptoms, difficulty breathing, that type of thing, then you should be considering that this person could have coronavirus. We want you to call us." Then, the department will walk those facilities through exactly which kinds of specimens to collect.

If a medical facility knows you’re coming in with respiratory issues, and you’ve recently been to China, the department said you may be asked to use a separate entrance. Or, you may be given a facemask or taken right to a holding room.

"Bottom line is that when you have an illness that is transmitted via the respiratory route, if possible, we want providers to use what’s called a negative airflow room," Ehresmann said. The goal is to make sure others aren’t put at risk.

As people’s concerns over the coronavirus grow, the Minnesota Department of Health warns not to over-worry or over-protect yourself. Instead, simply follow the instructions from your medical provider. Importantly, the department said don’t use a facemask unless you’ve been told to do so.