Minnesota's first COVID-19 case confirmed in cruise ship traveler

A man stands at a podium.
“I'm confident Minnesota is prepared for this,” Gov. Tim Walz told reporters Friday after the state Health Department confirmed a case of COVID-19.
Christine T. Ngyuen | MPR News

Updated 5 p.m.

An older adult resident of Ramsey County who recently traveled on a cruise ship with a known coronavirus case is now presumed to be Minnesota’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday, adding that the person is recovering now in isolation at home.

Health officials said the unnamed patient began to develop symptoms on Feb. 25 and sought health care Thursday. Samples were collected from the person and sent to the state Health Department laboratory, which confirmed the case at about 12:40 p.m. Friday.

The agency is awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control, but the state was moving ahead on the expectation that it is COVID-19.

Health officials are working now to identify and reach out to all those who may have come in contact with the infected person and will ask them to quarantine themselves for 14 days from their exposure; they will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.

“I'm confident Minnesota is prepared for this,” Gov. Tim Walz told reporters Friday afternoon. “The state of Minnesota is taking this very seriously and has been for weeks.”

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm emphasized the Ramsey County illness was a travel-related case and not one of unknown exposure from the community.

Asked if she expected Minnesota cases to jump now, Malcolm said that’s what authorities hope to prevent, and she noted that Wisconsin’s had only one confirmed case for weeks. “Our whole goal here is to work aggressively … to contain the spread of the disease.”

Should COVID-19 begin to spread, state and local public health authorities may consider moves such as temporary closures of child care facilities and schools, but officials Friday said those move are not being considered at this point.

Anticipating the arrival of COVID-19, the state Health Department had already requested $25 million in state funding to deal with a coronavirus outbreak. State Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said Friday that the Senate would approve $20.9 million on Monday morning.

Malcolm said her department was keeping pace with the need to test samples.

"Since Monday morning we've had a fairly manageable number of cases being reported into the department. So we are able to turn those results around on a same day basis so far,” she said. “We have not had to open up the testing beyond our normal hours because we've been able to produce those results quite quickly."

Since the outbreak started in China in December, more than 100,000 cases and 3,400 deaths have been reported in more than 80 countries. That total includes 233 U.S. cases and 14 deaths as of Friday morning, the Health Department said.

Walz, Malcolm and other officials continued to emphasize that the best way Minnesotans can help stop the spread of COVID-19 or any respiratory virus is to cover your cough, wash your hands often and stay home if you feel sick.

The state Health Department has established a hotline for Minnesotans who have concerns about the COVID-19 virus. The hotline number is 651-201-3920.

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