Coronavirus testing / MDH photo 1

The Minnesota Department of Health as of March 19 has tested more than 3,000 people for COVID-19.

Minnesota now has 89 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus), up from 77 the day before, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) said March 19.

There were 12 new cases reported Thursday, MDH Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann told reporters on March 19. The counties that added cases are: Hennepin (four cases), Carver (one case), Rice (one case), Wadena (one case), Anoka (three cases), Martin (one case) and Mower (one case).

In the southwest metro, there are now 32 positive cases in Hennepin County, three in Carver County and one in Scott County.

The 89 confirmed cases are only the lab-confirmed cases in the state and represent the “tip of the iceberg,” Ehresmann said. Health officials know there are more positive cases because they believe there is widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in the state of Minnesota.

This is why social distancing, staying home if you’re sick and the community mitigation tactics officials have taken, like closing bars and restaurants to dine-in customers, are so important in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

There is good news, though. The overall picture of COVID-19 suggests the vast majority of cases, about 81%, are mild, Ehresmann said. The cases in Minnesota are also reflecting that — Minnesota has seen seven COVID-19-related hospitalizations out of its 89 lab-confirmed cases (four patients are still hospitalized, including one Anoka County case who is still in critical condition).

“We have had individuals who have been ‘released’ from isolation,” Ehresmann told reporters, noting they have recovered. 

Of the 89 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 24 people are out of isolation as of March 19, Julie Bartkey, a public information office with MDH, said.

TESTING

Earlier this week, MDH issued new guidance on who should be tested for COVID-19 in the wake of supply shortages related to testing. MDH is focusing on testing the highest-priority cases — hospitalized patients, health care workers and those who live in congregate living settings like long-term care facilities — in hopes of preventing the health care system from becoming overwhelmed.

From Jan. 20 through March 19, MDH tested 3,038 people, the department’s website says. (Other organizations are also testing people who believe they may have the virus, but only their positive case numbers are reported to MDH.)

MDH does have a backlog of about 1,700 specimens that need to be tested, and it is working its way through them, hoping to catch up in the next couple of days, Ehresmann said. This backlog comes after MDH changed its guidance on who should be tested first — MDH is current with the testing of what it calls the high-priority cases, she added.

That being said, health officials continue to stress that when there is community transmission of the virus, as there is in Minnesota, it is less important for people with a fever and upper respiratory symptoms to get tested for the virus so long as they are able to manage their symptoms at home.

This is because the recommendations for treatment if the test is positive do not change; there is no cure for COVID-19.

If you’re having these symptoms, you should self-quarantine for a minimum of seven days after developing symptoms, including at least 72 hours (three days) without a fever (and without taking fever-reducing medicine) and improved respiratory symptoms, Ehresmann has said.

People with symptoms, regardless if they have gotten a COVID-19 test, should isolate themselves from people they live with as much as possible, and household and intimate contacts should limit public activities for 14 days after the patient self-isolates.

“The most important thing they can do at this time is to stay home when they are sick,” Ehresmann said on March 18.

WALZ SIGNS ANOTHER EXECUTIVE ORDER

Gov. Tim Walz has signed another executive order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This order, Executive Order 20-09, which orders health care providers to postpone elective surgeries and procedures, including non-emergent dental procedures, to focus health care capacity and equipment on responding to coronavirus cases and other emergencies, a March 19 news release says.

“The greatest risk we face during the COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming our health care systems and limiting their ability to respond to emerging cases,” Walz said in a statement. “This executive order keeps more health care resources open and prioritizes life-saving intervention for COVID-19 patients and other emergency care.”

Elective surgeries and procedures — things that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient — must be postponed indefinitely starting at 5 p.m. March 23, the release says. This does not include surgiers and procedures that prevent the loss of life, permanent dysfunction of an organ or extremity or risk of metastasis or progression of staging for non-COVID-19 patients.

“We urge Minnesotans to continue staying home if you’re sick and practice social distancing even if you’re not experiencing symptoms,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said in a statement. “But if you do get sick enough to require hospital intervention, we want health care providers to have the resources and space to provide the care you need.”

This order complies with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on March 17 and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on March 18 to delay elective surgeries and procedures to conserve resources and reduce contact between patients and providers.

Melissa Turtinen is the community editor for Lakeshore Weekly News and Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about adding context to stories and informing people about what's going on in their community. She enjoys being outside, traveling and good beer.

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