Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday signed into law a bill authorizing the state to spend $21 million to fight the outbreak of coronavirus.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Jerry Relph, R-St. Cloud, sailed through the Legislature Monday, receiving unanimous approval by both the House and the Senate.
The additional funding now brings the state’s public health response contingency fund to $25 million, the minimum amount state health officials say is necessary to respond to the widening coronavirus outbreak.
Minnesota has three confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that is wreaking havoc on the global economy and disrupting life in states like Washington, California and New York where the highest number of cases have been confirmed.
“Preparing our state for the coronavirus has become our top priority,” Walz said in a statement. “Here in Minnesota, we know this pressing public health crisis must transcend partisanship. That is why we worked in a bipartisan manner to pass this law, prepare for a potential outbreak, and protect the health of Minnesotans.”
Jan Malcolm, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, has been leading the state’s public health response, which includes preparing the state’s laboratory for in-state testing for the coronavirus.
“While we know that there are only two confirmed, travel-related cases of the coronavirus in Minnesota, we need to be prepared for a potential spread of the virus in our state,” Malcom said.
Shortly after the bill was signed into law, state health officials announced a third confirmed case in Minnesota, an Anoka resident in their 30s who is now hospitalized in critical condition. The exposure was likely from contact with international travelers, according to a news release. The patient experienced symptoms on Feb. 28 and sought treatment on Monday; the state on March 9 tested samples from the infected person and confirmed a positive result Tuesday.
The state is working with Anoka County Public Health to identify and reach any people who were in contact with the infected person.
The virus spreads similarly to the flu, through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People can also be infected by touching surfaces that have been contaminated by someone carrying the virus.
The health department is advising people to stay home if they have cold or flu-like systems, as well as avoiding close contact with people who are sick. Officials are advising people wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom or before eating.
People are also advised to avoid touching their faces with unwashed hands.
This story has been updated to include information about the third confirmed case in Minnesota.
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