Just days after county officials declared a peacetime emergency for the coronavirus pandemic, three confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surfaced in Steele County.
On Saturday morning, Public Health Director Amy Caron confirmed the first two cases of COVID-19 in Steele County. She said those affected are a person in their 40s and a person in their 50s with apparent transmission traveling to other states in both cases.
“These patients are in isolation at home and recovering,” Caron said. “SCPH is working with the Minnesota Department of Health and health care partners to address the needs of these patients and provide guidance to others who may have contact with them.”
By Sunday, a third case of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Steele County. In neighboring Dodge County, two cases have been reported with the first one coming on Friday. Caron, who also serves as public health director for Dodge County, said a person in their 20s came down with the coronavirus and that it was unknown how it had been transmitted. The Dodge County victim also was in isolation at home and recovering, she said.
There have been 235 confirmed cases in Minnesota as of Monday afternoon when this edition went to press. So far one person in their 80s has died from the coronavirus in Ramsey County. There have been six cases reported in Mower County. Freeborn is one of the only counties in southeastern Minnesota that hasn’t had any confirmed cases yet.
State officials are doing everything in their power to stop the spread of COVID-19. On March 17, Gov. Tim Walz shut down all bars and restaurants in Minnesota. The only service available from restaurants is delivery and curbside to go. Spas and salons were also added to the shut down on March 18.
Minnesota lawmakers passed a bill authorizing $200 million emergency funding plan for health care providers preparing to deal with the coronavirus. Walz said the state’s health care facilities “are Minnesota’s first line of defense against COVID-19.”
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to Caron. She said it can also spread when people touch surfaces that have been contaminated by an infected person and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.
“There is much that we do not know about this virus and how it has rapidly mutated,” Caron said. “We have no vaccine, no antiviral medication and can only treat the symptoms when they become serious.”
However, Caron stressed, there are things that everyone can do to protect themselves, family members, neighbors and vulnerable populations. A checklist of precautions is shared as a sidebar to this story.
“Now is the time to take action and slow the spread down in our communities,” Caron warned.
Gov. Walz announced Monday morning he will self-quarantine for a period of 14 days after learning he had contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19. “The most important thing Minnesotans can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home,” he said. “I’m using this as an opportunity to lead by example. Though I’m feeling healthy and not showing any symptoms, I’m going to work from home and model the protocol we are asking all Minnesotans to follow.”
Over the past week, Walz has been busy issuing executive orders one after another.
On March 19, Walz ordered health care providers to postpone elective surgeries and procedures indefinitely to prioritize COVID-19 response.
“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. “This executive order keeps more health care resources open and prioritizes life-saving intervention for COVID-19 patients and other emergency care.”
The governor signed three additional Executive Orders on Friday to further strengthen Minnesota’s response to the pandemic. These orders ban price gouging in Minnesota and ensure that critical services continue for our state’s most vulnerable.
One of the orders authorizes the Minnesota Department of Human Services to seek federal authority to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements for federal programs, including but not limited to the Minnesota Family Investment Program, Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare, to ensure these programs continue providing necessary support to families during the pandemic.
Minnesotans can report instances of price gouging by calling 1-800-657-3787. Complaints may also be made online at www.ag.state.mn.us/office/complaint.asp.
MNsure has announced a 30-day special enrollment period beginning Monday until April 21. It will allow uninsured individuals 30 days to enroll in health insurance coverage through MNsure.org.
“As more cases of COVID-19 are diagnosed throughout the state, we want to make sure every Minnesotan has the security of health insurance to ensure they can get the care they need if they contract this serious illness,” said MNsure CEO Nate Clark. “Uninsured Minnesotans can come to MNsure.org to sign up for coverage.”