Minnesota health officials report second case of coronavirus

Vials of COVID-19 are tested.
Samples are tested for COVID-19 Tuesday at the Minnesota Department of Health.
Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Health

Updated: 7:13 p.m. Monday | Posted: 6:40 p.m. Sunday

Minnesota health officials announced Sunday evening that they've confirmed a second case of coronavirus in the state.

The latest case is a resident of Carver County who's in their 50s, and likely was exposed to the virus while traveling in Europe in late February.

The patient developed symptoms on March 2 and sought medical treatment on Saturday; testing came back positive Sunday. State health officials said in a news release that they are awaiting confirmation testing by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but “consider the presumptive results actionable.”

State health officials say the person is in isolation at home and is recovering.

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Kris Ehresmann, director for infectious diseases at the Minnesota Department of Health, said state and county health officials are interviewing the patient to determine whether there were possible exposures to other people. Ehresmann said the method of transmission for coronavirus is respiratory droplets, so they're particularly looking for people who may have had prolonged face-to-face contact with the individual — within 6 feet, for 10 minutes or more.

People deemed at risk of having been exposed will be asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days, and will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms, the agency said in a news release.

Minnesota's first confirmed case of coronavirus was reported in Ramsey County on Friday.

Ehresmann told reporters Sunday night that the state did 31 coronavirus tests over the weekend, for a total of about 80 since testing began. From those 80 tests came the two presumptive positive results.

"At this point, our public health laboratory has adequate testing supplies, and we've also been made aware that there are other private laboratories that may have testing that comes online ... later this week. So that should also make a difference," she said.

On Monday, Wisconsin health officials confirmed a second person in the state has tested positive for coronavirus, which is a separate case, this time in Pierce County along the Minnesota border. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Pierce County Public Health Department said the person was exposed while traveling within the U.S. and is currently isolated at home.

Officials with the Wisconsin county are working to determine who many have had contact with the person so others can be isolated and tested if they have symptoms. The person's family is also staying home.

CDC's laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus.
CDC via AP

What to do if you’re sick

In both of the confirmed cases in Minnesota, there was a gap of several days from when the person reported symptoms and when they sought medical care.

Asked about that on Sunday night, Ehresmann said that's not necessarily problematic, as long as people stay home when they're feeling sick.

"Our message to people about seeking health care is that they should, if they would normally seek health care. So if this was last September and they had the same symptoms that they're having now — if they would seek health care, they should definitely do that. ... But we don't want people to feel like just because COVID is circulating that they need to seek health care. ... What's most important in this situation would be that we want people to, when they're ill, to stay home. ...

"We don't want to suggest that people should not seek health care, but we want to be clear that just because COVID is circulating, they don't have to seek health care if they have symptoms that they normally would not seek health care for."

If someone does have COVID-19 symptoms — fever, cough, shortness of breath — and has reason to believe they may have been exposed to the virus, Ehresmann said they should call ahead to their health care provider so that clinic can take steps to minimize possible exposure to others.

"Every Minnesotan has a role in helping to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. “Again, our key messages, important for all respiratory illnesses and very applicable to COVID-19: Stay home when you are sick. Cover your coughs and sneezing. Wash your hands frequently and well. And avoid touching your face throughout the day. … You've heard these messages from us, but we will continue to reiterate them at every chance we get. They are our best weapon at this stage of the fight against COVID-19."

Next steps

Asked whether there has been any discussion among state officials about canceling concerts, sporting events or other large gatherings in Minnesota, Ehresmann said "it is too early for that.”

“Although there are many locations in the United States that have moved to community mitigation, where they are canceling large events, they are temporarily closing schools, that type of thing — in Minnesota, we are still at the point where focusing on containment, or making sure that each case is isolated and their contacts are quarantined, that that's still the appropriate route of action,” she said.

Malcolm said there are conversations taking place about what might trigger such actions, "to be a step or two ahead of where the epidemic actually is."

Minnesota residents on Grand Princess cruise ship

State officials said 42 Minnesota residents are among the 3,500 people aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, which has been the focal point for a number of coronavirus cases. The ship has spent several days in a holding pattern off the California coast, and is set to dock on Monday in Oakland.

Passengers will be taken to military bases in California, Texas and Georgia, for testing and quarantine, though plans were still be formalized on Sunday.

“We are continuing to have conversations with CDC and they will let us know what the plan is at the federal level," Ehresmann said. "If (the passengers) will be back in Minnesota, we would work with work with CDC to make sure that we had appropriate housing situations for them if they couldn't be at home."

For more information

The state Health Department has established a hotline for Minnesotans who have concerns about the COVID-19 virus: 651-201-3920. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday.

More information can also be found online here.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.