Health officials confirm first case of coronavirus in Minnesota

Minnesota health officials have confirmed the first case of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Minnesota. State health officials said the case is an older adult in Ramsey County who recently was on a cruise ship with another passenger with a known COVID-19 case.

The Minnesota patient began to develop symptoms on February 25 and sought health care on Thursday, March 5. Samples were tested on Friday, March 6 and came back positive, but the Minnesota Department of Health is waiting on CDC confirmation.

In the meantime, MDH is working to contact people who may have come in contact with the patient. They are asking those individuals to self-quarantine for 14 days from their exposure and will be monitored for any symptoms.

Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresman says they are early in the process and investigators are reviewing the case. But, at this point, they are still working to trace the patient's recent whereabouts.

"Our team is working on this,” added Ehresmann. “We’re here to give you information and there is a beehive of activity happening at the department. We’ll certainly have more information in the days ahead."

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In a statement, Gov. Walz says: "The State of Minnesota has been working around the clock to prepare for this and I am confident that our Department of Health is up to the challenge. Our Administration is collaborating across state agencies and remains in close contact with both federal and local partners as we monitor developments with this outbreak. Our state is fortunate to have a strong public health sector and world-class health care providers who are working hard to keep Minnesotans safe and healthy."

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka confirmed that on Monday the Senate will pass $20.9 million in funding for the Public Health Response Contingency Account.

"We are working to move this bill quickly to provide care for those who will need it," read Gazelka's statement. "Additionally, our thoughts are with the individual who tested postive this afternoon. We pray for their full recovery."

Worldwide, there have been more than 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 3,400 deaths in 80 countries. In the United States, there have been 14 deaths, mostly in Washington state. As of 3 p.m. on March 6, Minnesota tested 49 patients for COVID-19, with one positive test and 48 negative tests.

The popular SXSW festival in Austin, Texas was canceled Friday due to concerns about the coronavirus. SXSW is "exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU." The decision to cancel comes after numerous companies dropped out of the event, including Facebook, Mashable, Twitter and Netflix.

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MDH is reminding Minnesotans to take the following steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections: 

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with your sleeve or a tissue, not your hand
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water
  • Stay home when sick
  • Stay informed by visiting the MDH and CDC websites often

The Minnesota Department of Health has established a coronavirus hotline for the public. The hotline is open until 8 p.m. Friday night, March 6 and again from 9 a.m. to 4:30 pm. Saturday and Sunday, March 7 and 8. The hotline number is 651-201-3920.

GOOD QUESTION: How did coronavirus get its name?