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UPDATE: Minnesota's 4th, 5th COVID-19 cases surface in Olmsted, Ramsey counties

Mar 10, 2020 02:26PM ● By Editor
By Peter Cox from Minnesota Public Radio News - March 11, 2020

Minnesota now has its fourth and fifth cases of COVID-19, with the patients in Olmsted and Ramsey counties recovering at home, state health officials said Wednesday.

Both cases have international travel history. The Ramsey case is a person in their 30s. Health officials say that person has had no community contact outside their home.

The Olmsted case involves a person in their 50s who may have been symptomatic while at work, Graham Briggs, the county’s public health director, told reporters.

Briggs decline to say where the person works but added that the patient lives alone and there’s no evidence of any local transmission of the disease.

The state's first two cases of COVID-19 were in Ramsey and Carver counties. Those patients are recovering at home. On Tuesday, officials announced that an Anoka County resident in their 30swho tested positive for COVID-19 is hospitalized and in critical condition. 

COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus first identified in China that’s been sweeping across the world.

To read updates on this story, follow this link to the MPR News website.

Minnesota Department of Health officials again stressed the importance of all Minnesotans continuing to do those things that can limit the spread of the coronavirus:

  •  Stay home and away from others if you are sick.
  •  Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue.
  •  Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water.
  •  Avoid touching your face throughout the day.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza is spread. It can also spread when people touch surfaces that have been contaminated by an infected person and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

More information about coronavirus can be found on MDH’s Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website. MDH has set up a COVID-19 public hotline that is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The hotline number is 651-201-3920.

From Wisconsin Pubic Radio News - March 11, 2020

Third Confirmed Case Of Coronavirus In Wisconsin, Second In Dane County
DHS: Person Exposed While Traveling And Is Isolated At Home
By Alana Watson State health officials have confirmed a third case of COVID-19 and the second in Dane County.

The recent case comes a day after a second person in Wisconsin tested positive for the virus in Pierce County.

Last month, a Dane County resident who traveled to China contracted the new coronavirus. The person stayed home and has since recovered. Health officials confirmed Tuesday the two Dane County cases are unrelated.

State health officials announced the second Dane County case Tuesday morning after the patient tested positive late Monday evening. The patient called ahead to a local outpatient facility addressing symptoms before being tested, according to health officials.

In the two most recent cases, both individuals contracted the virus while traveling to areas that have community spread in the United States. The state Department of Health Services didn’t say specifically where those patients traveled but did confirm they flew. They are encouraging Wisconsinites to avoid areas like King County, Washington; New York; and northern California where health officials have confirmed the virus has spread throughout communities.

The state is trying to minimize the spread of coronavirus all together, but it will take community commitment, Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases at DHS, said Tuesday during a teleconference.

"The particularly challenging thing about this virus is that the majority of people who get infected are going to have minimal systems and are going to feel OK," Westergaard said. "It requires a real commitment on all of our communities to say in the setting of respiratory illness we do extra to protect people who are vulnerable."

The two new patients are isolated at home, and health officials are working to trace people the patients may have encountered before being tested.

The Osceola School District, just north of Pierce County, canceled classes Tuesday to deep clean the school. The Pierce County patient attended an event at one of the district’s schools over the weekend, health officials said Tuesday.

State Health Officer Jeanne Ayers said during the teleconference that the new cases weren’t unexpected because of how it's spreading across the U.S. She also said the state is increasing testing at multiple locations to ensure they can test patients quickly.

Ayers said the state isn’t in the position to recommend canceling community events. She said if they see wide spread COVID-19 in one area or have individuals that contract the virus without travel history, they will make recommendations.

"Every day we revisit our situation in Wisconsin and we identify what those triggers would be," Ayers said.

If the effects of the disease do become severe, a wide range of state resources could become part of the response.

Brig. Gen. David O’Donahue of the Wisconsin National Guard said state health officials will take the lead, but the National Guard is prepared to provide support as needed.

"If there are opportunities where they need personnel support, transportation support, that’s really where we can assist the state," O’Donahue said in an interview Tuesday with WPR at the Governor’s Conference on Emergency Management Homeland Security in Wisconsin Dells.

"We’re really in a monitoring situation," O’Donahue said.

Health officials said that people who have traveled in the past two weeks where there is community spread of the virus should self-quarantine and monitor themselves if they develop symptoms. COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.

Editor's note: Rob Mentzer contributed to this report.

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