(FOX 9) - A total of nine people have died from the coronavirus in Minnesota, as a statewide stay-at-home order takes effect. The number of cases has now reached 503.
However, state health officials say that number is still an undercount due to a lack of testing. More than 17,000 people have been tested for the virus to date.
Of the cases, 252 patients no longer need to be isolated. There have been 75 patients who required hospitalization, 39 of whom are currently in the hospital.
Otter Tail County reported its first case Sunday. The patient, who did recently travel internationally, is in isolation at home and is being monitored by the Minnesota Department of Health.
St. Louis County now have five cases. One patient, who is in their 60s, is in the hospital. The other four, who are in their 20s and 30s, are recovering at home. One of the cases is a previously confirmed case.
Four of the Minnesotans who died from the coronavirus were in their 80s, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. MDH infectious diseases director Kris Ehresmann said three lived in congregate living facilities, such as long-term care facilities, including the two deaths reported on Friday.
Speaking Saturday, officials said there are dealing with COVID-19 cases at 20 congregate care facilities in Minnesota, with 10 situations involving staff members, eight involving residents, and two with cases among both staff and residents.
"With COVID in the community, that is what can bring it into these facilities. That is why, as painful as it is to make the recommendation, we are saying no visitors," Ehresmann said. She said state officials have not determined how the virus is getting into long-term care facilities.
This does not mean, however, that counties that do not have confirmed cases of COVID-19 are safe. Many of Minnesota's cases are the result of community transmission. Community transmission cases occur when the individual who tested positive did not travel or have any known contact with someone with COVID-19.
"We should assume it [the coronavirus] is in all of our communities," Heatlh Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.
Gov. Tim Walz said that based on his work with health department, he predicts that 40 to 80 percent of Minnesotans will get the coronavirus.
Walz acknowledged his stay-home order wasn't universally popular, but added that he was concerned about a "concerted effort" to attack the state's modeling.
"It’s the best modeling I have," Walz told reporters. “I know there will be more deaths. It’s agonizing and I find it nearly unacceptable."
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The World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic. MDH confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Minnesota on March 6.
As the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state climbs, state officials have begun enacting drastic measures to reduce the number of places the coronavirus can be spread.
Gov. Walz issued a statewide stay-at-home order for two weeks, effective Friday, March 27 until April 10. He also extended the closure of bars, restaurants, salons, fitness centers and other businesses until May 1 and schools until May 4. Students will participate in distance learning during that time.
People should utilize the state health department's website for information about the stay-home order and not call 911, homeland security director Joe Kelly said.
"We have a simple request that will help us with that important work," Kelly said, pleading with people not to ask questions over phone calls reserved for emergencies. "911 call centers are experiencing an incredible volume of calls with non-emergency questions about the executive orders."
The governor said ordering Minnesotans to stay home pushes the peak of the pandemic in the state out 14 weeks, until around June 28, with hospitals reaching peak capacity around June 7. This will buy the state's health care system more time to expand bed capacity and acquire more ventilators, he said.
Since March 6, Gov. Walz has declared a peacetime state of emergency, canceled or postponed all gatherings of 250 or more people, closed all schools, closed public gathering spaces such as theaters, gyms and bars and limited restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders. Walz is expanding unemployment benefits to employees impacted by the pandemic.
The governor also ordered hospitals to stop all elective surgeries and procedures, anything that can be delayed without risking a patient’s health. The order took effect on Monday, March 23 and could last weeks.
MDH has two hotlines for questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hotline for community mitigation (schools, childcare, business) questions is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The number to call is 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504.
The hotline for health questions is also open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The number to call is 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE SICK
MDH says if you have symptoms of a respiratory disease (such as fever, coughing, muscle aches, sore threat and headache) you should stay home for at least seven days and at least three days with without a fever (without fever-reducing medicine).
If you have symptoms and can manage those symptoms at home, MDH said you do not have to seek health care or be tested for COVID-19. Just stay home if you are sick. If your symptoms worsen, if possible, call ahead before going into your health care provider.
"People do not need to be tested for COVID-19 if they're in a situation where they'd be able to manage their symptoms at home; since there is no treatment for mild cases, there is no clinical decision that would be made based on the test result," MDH Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann said.
MDH has restricted the criteria to test for COVID-19 due to a limited supply of testing materials. They are giving priority to hospitalized patients as well as ill health care workers and ill persons living in congregate living settings such as long-term care. The new restrictions on testing will remain in place indefinitely until more tests are provided to Minnesota.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza is spread. It can also spread when people touch surfaces that have been contaminated by an infected person and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, patients with confirmed COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some patients have had other symptoms including muscle aches, headache, sore throat or diarrhea.
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
The CDC and MDH recommend Minnesotans do the following to protect themselves and others and limit the spread of COVID-19:
- Stay home and away from others if you are sick
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
- Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water
- Avoid touching your face throughout the day
- Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. The CDC recommends staying a minimum of 6 feet away.