The Potluck

Minnesota COVID-19 cases grow to 5 as state ramps up efforts to curb outbreak

By: - March 11, 2020 1:16 pm

The virus hasn’t just attacked cells. It’s attacked brains with conspiracy theories, too (Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Rocky Mountain Lab)

Minnesota health officials on Wednesday said they will begin moving toward “community mitigation” efforts following the confirmation of two additional COVID-19 cases in the state, bringing the total to five confirmed cases. 

Kris Ehresmann, director of the Minnesota Department of Health infectious disease division, said the state on Tuesday tested samples from 100 patients, including the two newly-confirmed cases: an individual in their 50’s from Olmsted County who had symptoms at work and an individual in their 30s in Ramsey County. 

State labs have been able to conduct testing for the novel coronavirus since the weekend, but Ehresmann said that the previous lack of laboratory testing has slowed the state’s detection efforts. She said at this point, the state has not found community transmission of the virus, explaining that the two latest people to contract the virus had traveled internationally.  

“Our goal in the next day or so is to start moving with our messaging into that community mitigation,” Ehresmann, explaining it would be prudent to cancel large events or conferences that would draw international visitors. 

Community mitigation, which includes efforts like temporarily closing schools, encouraging telecommuting and cancelling large gatherings, follows containment, the first phase of the state’s public health response. Ehresmann said the initial, confirmed cases have been isolated and any people who potentially had contact with the infected individuals have been asked to self-quarantine. 

The gradual escalation in the state’s public health response comes as other states and local governments have moved to limit large gatherings. A number of large sporting events and concerts have been cancelled or postponed. 

DFL Gov. Tim Walz has broad powers as governor in the case of an emergency, including “direction or control” of “the conduct of persons in the state, including entrance or exit from any stricken or threatened public place,” as well as “public meetings or gatherings.”  

A spokesman for Walz said Wednesday that the administration’s legal counsel has advised the Governor on his legal authority to declare a state of emergency because the coronavirus  can be considered a natural disaster. He has not yet done so, however.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.