Minnesota's 4th, 5th COVID-19 cases surface in Olmsted, Ramsey counties

Samples are tested for COVID-19.
Samples are tested for COVID-19 Tuesday, March 3, 2020, at the Minnesota Department of Health. Minnesota now has its fourth and fifth confirmed cases of COVID-19, with the patients in Olmsted and Ramsey counties.
Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Health

Updated 3:15 p.m.

Minnesota now has its fourth and fifth cases of COVID-19, with the patients in Olmsted and Ramsey counties recovering at home, state health officials said Wednesday.

Both cases have international travel history. The Ramsey case is a person in their 30s. Health officials say that person has had no community contact outside their home.

The Olmsted case involves a person in their 50s who may have been symptomatic while at work, Graham Briggs, the county’s public health director, told reporters.

The person, who’d traveled recently to a place with other known COVID-19 cases, came to Mayo Clinic's emergency room in Rochester for testing earlier this week after developing symptoms. Public health officials are still investigating, but the patient’s contact with other people appears to have been limited.

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"Since we know or are confident where this case was exposed, we see no evidence at this time of transmission locally,” Briggs said. “This first case we've identified, we feel pretty comfortable that they did not acquire the infection in Rochester."

Briggs said that more people are seeking COVID-19 testing at Mayo and at Olmsted Medical Center.

Minnesota’s first two cases of COVID-19 were in Ramsey and Carver counties. Those patients are recovering at home. On Tuesday, officials announced that an Anoka County resident in their 30s who tested positive for COVID-19 is hospitalized and in critical condition.

COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus first identified in China that’s been sweeping across the world.

While state health officials say they have yet to see any community transmission in Minnesota, they are preparing for a potentially wider scope of the coronavirus.

"The next phase is community mitigation and that includes things like canceling large events, that type of thing,” said Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director. “Our goal in the next day or so is to start moving with our messaging into that community mitigation, and we want to acknowledge that this move between phases is not an on off switch, but rather a dial.”

Separately on Wednesday, federal health officials said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would provide $10 million in funding to Minnesota to support COVID-19 response efforts.

MPR News reporter Catharine Richert reported from Rochester, Minn.

Correction (March 11, 2020): A previous version of this story misstated the age of the person in the Olmsted County case. This story has been updated.