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Walz says COVID-19 numbers to 'jump way up'


Walz says COVID-19 numbers to 'jump way up'

MPR News Mar 20, 2020


Gov. Tim Walz on Friday said Minnesota's COVID-19 numbers are going to “jump way up."


He made the remarks during an interview on WCCO radio, in which he also said he's not ready yet for a shelter-in-place order. But he says "it is a possibility."


Meanwhile, national shortage of coronavirus testing supplies has state health officials cautioning that the number of COVID-19 cases is much higher than the data show — and that the life-threatening virus is spreading across Minnesota.


“We really believe that there is widespread community transmission of COVID throughout the state,” Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious diseases for the Health Department, told reporters Thursday.


The Health Department had confirmed 89 cases of COVID-19 via testing as of Thursday afternoon. However, that count is from some 3,100 completed tests.


There were 1,700 samples frozen, ready and waiting to be tested, earlier this week, according to Walz. And many Minnesotans have shared stories online about trying to get tested, but not qualifying for such a test as the state rations its supplies for those at greatest risk.


“We're not choosing to limit testing,” Ehresmann said — the issue is with a lack of supplies.


The coronavirus pandemic is serious, Ehresmann said, but people who are stressed can take some solace in findings that most cases — around 81 percent — are considered mild.


“We don't want people to feel panicked,” she told reporters Thursday. “We're concerned about people's mental health.”


And on the other end of the spectrum, Ehresmann said there are people who believe the severity of COVID-19 is exaggerated. That’s not the case, she said, and all people should heed public health officials’ guidance on staying home practicing social distancing and isolating if feeling ill.


Nineteen Minnesota counties have confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Thursday afternoon: Anoka, Benton, Blue Earth, Carver, Clay, Dakota, Hennepin, Martin, Mower, Nicollet, Olmsted, Ramsey, Renville, Rice, Scott, Stearns, Waseca, Washington and Wright.


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