Minnesota’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections ballooned to 89 on Thursday, March 19, including a pair of cases in Carver County.

Currently, confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in Anoka, Benton, Blue Earth, Carver, Clay, Dakota, Hennepin, Martin, Mower, Nicollet, Olmsted, Ramsey, Renville, Rice, Scott, Stearns, Waseca, Washington and Wright counties, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The state department of health reports that more than 3,000 Minnesotans have been tested, and that there are at least another 1,700 samples on ice waiting to be tested.

Due to a national shortage of testing supplies and agents, the state department of health announced this week that testing criteria – at least in the short term – had been narrowed.

Under current testing criteria, health care workers and people living in congregate-living situations (like nursing homes and other care facilities) will be given top priority. Following that top-tier priority, the state lab is only taking specimens from hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Ridgeview Medical Center has implemented system-wide restrictions on visitation during the COVID-19 outbreak. Ridgeview is limiting visitation of patients to one person – either a legal guardian or designated patient representative. Visitors who are ill or have a known COVID-19 exposure will not be allowed to visit. The hospital noted that legal guardians of patients in the neonatal care unit will not be impeded, but no other visitors will be allowed in the unit.

The hospital noted that “compassionate” exceptions may be made in situations concerning critical patients.

Ridgeview e-Care is also offering free, online COVID-19 screening questionnaires at ridgeviewecare.org.

To help ease the expected oncoming burden on health care providers and clinics, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has ordered postponement of all elective surgeries and other non-essential medical procedures. The order also applies to non-emergency dental procedures.

The greatest risk we face during the COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming our health care systems and limiting their ability to respond to emerging cases,” Walz said in a statement.

The Minnesota Hospital Association endorsed the governor's order.

“We understand that this is a difficult decision for hospitals and health care systems. ... But it is absolutely the right thing to do in order to protect our patients, preserve supplies, equipment, and the right thing to do for our front-line caregivers,” Dr. Rahul Koranne, the association's president and CEO, said in a conference call with reporters.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild cases of COVID-19 recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe cases may take three to six weeks to get better.

While Minnesota has charted fewer than 100 cases of COVID-19 to date, the state health department warns that the infection total is likely much higher and is likely present in more counties than currently reported.

“The 89 cases really represent the tip of the iceberg.,” said Kris Ehresmann, an infectious disease expert with the state health department.

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