Coronavirus in Minnesota: 1 death, 169 cases

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses, including the novel coronavirus identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first det ( Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images )

Minnesota has reported its first COVID-19 death, officials announced Saturday. The state now has 169 positive cases.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the death occurred March 19 in a Ramsey County resident in their 80s who recently tested positive for COVID-19. Officials say the person who died had contact with a family member who had traveled recently and developed the disease.

“Gwen and I extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones during this time of loss,” Governor Tim Walz said in a release. “As COVID-19 continues to spread in Minnesota, we must all do what we can to keep each other safe.”

“My heart is with the family, friends, and neighbors who are grieving,” Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan added. “This loss is deeply felt by our entire community. Now more than ever, each of us must do our part to prevent the spread of this virus, especially to our most vulnerable Minnesotans.”

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said the death underscores the importance of protecting our most vulnerable Minnesotans during the outbreak.

“Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the patient,” Commissioner Malcolm said. “We’ve all seen reports of outbreak-related deaths in other states and countries, but this Minnesota death reminds us how important it is to continue working to protect each other during this outbreak.”

Commissioner Malcolm emphasized the importance of all Minnesotans doing their part to slow the spread of the virus and protect those in our communities who might be at higher risk of severe illness or death. The most vulnerable include those over 65 and those with underlying health conditions.

In Minnesota, among the cases, there have been 12 hospitalizations, with six people still in the hospital and four of those in intensive care. Positive cases have ranged from ages 10 to 94.

Among the cases, 34 health workers have tested positive for coronavirus. Most of those cases have been due to travel, health officials said, but some now have been contracted while the worker was in a health care setting.

Sunday, health leaders also called on people suffering from dental emergencies to call their dentist and avoid emergency rooms to lessen the strain the health care system.

There are now more than 20 counties with confirmed cases.

Anoka - 5
Benton - 1
Blue Earth - 4
Carver - 7
Cass - 1
Chisago - 1
Clay - 2
Dakota - 11
Dodge - 2
Filmore - 2
Hennepin - 57
Jackson - 1
LeSeur - 1
Martin - 8
Mower - 6
Nicollet - 3
Olmsted - 14
Ramsey - 18
Renville - 1
Rice - 1
Scott - 3
Stearns - 4
St. Louis - 1
Steele - 3
Wabasha - 1
Waseca - 1
Washington - 7
Wright - 3

“This should not be construed to mean that counties that do not have cases are safe," Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann said. 

Several of Minnesota's cases are the result of community transmission. Community transmission cases occur when the individual who tested positive did not travel or have any known contact with someone with COVID-19. 

MDH has restricted the criteria to test for COVID-19 due to a limited supply of testing materials. They are giving priority to hospitalized patients as well as ill health care workers and ill persons living in congregate living settings such as long-term care. The new restrictions on testing will remain in place indefinitely until more tests are provided to Minnesota. 

As the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state climbs, state officials have begun enacting drastic measures to reduce the number of places the coronavirus can be spread.  

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic. MDH confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Minnesota on March 6.  

MDH has restricted the criteria to test for COVID-19 due to a limited supply of testing materials. They are giving priority to hospitalized patients as well as ill health care workers and ill persons living in congregate living settings such as long-term care. The new restrictions on testing will remain in place indefinitely until more tests are provided to Minnesota.

Last week, Gov. Walz said the state had a backlog of 1,700 coronavirus tests it was working through with tests in short supply. Sunday, officials said testing made available through the Mayo Clinic has allowed the state to cut down on the number of outstanding tests.

As the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state climbs, state officials have begun enacting drastic measures to reduce the number of places the coronavirus can be spread.  

Since March 6, Gov. Walz has declared a peacetime state of emergency, canceled or postponed all gatherings of 250 or more people, closed all schools, closed public gathering spaces such as theaters, gyms and bars and limited restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders. Walz is expanding unemployment benefits to employees impacted by the pandemic. 

RELATED: Details of Walz’s order closing bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters, other gathering places 

The governor also ordered hospitals to stop all elective surgeries and procedures, anything that can be delayed without risking a patient’s health. The order takes effect on Monday, March 23 and could last weeks. 

COVID-19 HOTLINES

MDH has two hotlines for questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The hotline for community mitigation (schools, childcare, business) questions is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The number to call is 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504. 

The hotline for health questions is also open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The number to call is 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903. 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE SICK

MDH says if you have symptoms of a respiratory disease (such as fever, coughing, muscle aches, sore threat and headache) you should stay home for at least seven days and at least three days with without a fever (without fever-reducing medicine). 

If you have symptoms and can manage those symptoms at home, MDH said you do not have to seek health care or be tested for COVID-19. Just stay home if you are sick. If your symptoms worsen, if possible, call ahead before going into your health care provider. 

RELATED: Minnesota Dept. of Health narrowing testing criteria amid national shortage of COVID-19 tests

"People do not need to be tested for COVID-19 if they're in a situation where they'd be able to manage their symptoms at home; since there is no treatment for mild cases, there is no clinical decision that would be made based on the test result," MDH Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann said.

ABOUT COVID-19

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.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, patients with confirmed COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some patients have had other symptoms including muscle aches, headache, sore throat or diarrhea.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. 

The CDC and MDH recommend Minnesotans do the following to protect themselves and others and limit the spread of COVID-19: 

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

Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. The CDC recommends staying a minimum of 6 feet away.