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The daily coronavirus update: Seven new COVID-19 cases confirmed, bringing Minnesota total to 21

Photo: CDC/Alissa Eckert

For the foreseeable future, MinnPost will be providing daily updates on coronavirus in Minnesota, published following the press phone call conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) each afternoon.

Here are the latest updates from March 14, 2020:

Seven cases

Minnesota Department of Health officials announced seven new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state Saturday, for a total of 21.

None of the cases announced Saturday are hospitalized and all are at home recovering. One Minnesotan, a case previously announced, remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Saturday’s seven:

  • A Stearns County person in their sixties
  • A Dakota county person in their teens
  • A Hennepin County person in their sixties
  • A Ramsey County person in their thirties
  • A Hennepin County person in their thirties
  • A Renville County person in their thirties
  • A Hennepin County person in their sixties

MDH has not finished investigating the cases — some came in later in the day Friday. In all the so-far investigated cases, the person confirmed had contact with another confirmed COVID-19 case outside Minnesota, or had domestic or international travel history that likely explains their exposure.

MDH said it’s not currently disclosing whether confirmed cases have underlying health conditions but that will change as more cases are reported.

“As we see more and more cases over time, we will be able to provide more detailed aggregated data, but while we have a limited number of cases, we have to be cautious in the amount of detail we provide,” Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said.

Testing questions, answered

Q: Are tests exclusively for people with travel history, or are others being tested?

Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann
A: MDH is encouraging providers to prioritize testing for people who have met criteria like travel but say they are leaving discretion to providers. Testing capacity is limited but increasing as commercial labs gear up to do tests.

“Our aspirational goal as we’ve said before is that everyone would have the opportunity for testing,” Ehresmann said. Right now, it’s a question of both kit capacity and lab capacity.

Q: Has Vice President Mike Pence responded to Minnesota’s request for access to more test kits? (Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has said he would like to see a capacity of 15,000 tests per month in the state).

A: “We have not yet heard anything from the Vice President’s office. I’m sure that as soon as we do we will let people know but we have not heard anything about that yet,” Ehresmann said.

Q: Do the number of confirmed cases reflect only those confirmed by MDH’s lab or also others?

A: Until recently, MDH was the only lab testing. In the last few days, more commercial labs have come online. MDH will include totals from other labs, but might not get information on new cases as quickly as it gets it from its own lab.

MDH has tested more than 800 patients total, with roughly 300 tested Friday alone.

Guidance on gathering in the era of social distancing

In addition to calling a peacetime state of emergency Friday, Gov. Tim Walz announced social distancing measures designed to stop fast spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota. You can read all about that in yesterday’s briefing here.

Gov. Tim Walz
MinnPost photo by Greta Kaul
Gov. Tim Walz
On Saturday, Ehresmann reiterated that Minnesotans should follow those guidelines, but she also said people should live their lives.

“The most important thing for people to keep in mind is staying home if they’re sick,” Ehresmann said. “We’re not recommending closing malls. Going to a birthday party with a few children [or going to the grocery store], that is not a problem. Those are not things we are making recommendations for.”

“We want people to heed these recommendations and clearly staying home if you’re sick is the most important one, but people need to be able to live their lives, so we want to make sure we’re giving them information that will allow them to do that as well,” she said.

MDH’s coronavirus website:

Hotline, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.: 651-201-3920

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