(FOX 9) - UPDATE: Minnesota now has 169 cases of COVID-19, with one death reported in Ramsey County.
Minnesota now has more than 150 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the state, although health officials say that undercounts the actual number of cases due of a lack of testing. More than 4,000 people have been tested so far.
“This should not be construed to mean that counties that do not have cases are safe," Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann said.
Several 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.
Ehresmann said health officials believe COVID-19 is circulating in all of Minnesota's communities.
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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.
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.
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.
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 takes 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.
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.