State health officials said Minnesota’s first coronavirus patient was one of dozens of state residents aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship with infected passengers.
Of the 26 who have left the ship and returned to Minnesota, only two exhibited symptoms of the virus and just one ended up testing positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. Officials said the infected resident is an older adult resident of Ramsey County who was treated at M Health Fairview and is now in quarantine at home.
According to WCCO, 26 Minnesotans from a previous cruise disembarked and returned home while more than 40 other Minnesotans are currently aboard the ship, which is circling off the coast of San Francisco. Twenty-one passengers have tested positive for the virus.
“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,” Gov. Tim Walz said at a Friday press conference announcing the state’s first case.
“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,” he added.
Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm asked Minnesotans to do their part “to slow the spread of this virus by covering coughs, washing hands, and staying home when sick with cold or flu-like symptoms.”
“We also need to prepare for community mitigation measures like telework arrangements and temporary school closures should they become necessary,” she said.
Several high-profile events have been canceled in response to the spread of the virus, including the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas and the women’s world hockey championship in Canada.
Vice President Mike Pence caused alarm this week when he said there are not enough test kits “today” to “meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.”
“As more Americans take an interest in this or have concerns about this, we want to make sure they have access to a coronavirus test as well and we’ve made real progress on that in the last several days,” Pence said during a Thursday visit to a 3M facility in Minnesota.
Local churches are starting to grapple with how to respond to the virus. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said this week that priests can use their discretion in suspending the sign of peace and communion from the chalice during mass.
“The most important thing Minnesotans can do right now to help protect themselves, their families and their communities is to take those tried and true, everyday steps to prevent respiratory illnesses,” said Director of Infectious Diseases Kris Ehresmann.
Gov. Walz urged Minnesotans to remain calm and noted that Wisconsin’s first case of the virus remains the only confirmed case in the state.
As of Saturday morning, the United States had 328 confirmed cases and 16 deaths. Minnesota has tested a total of 49 individuals for the virus so far.
– – –