Coronavirus Confirmed in Minnesota; Sun Country Cuts Flights
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Coronavirus Confirmed in Minnesota; Sun Country Cuts Flights

Health officials confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Minnesota on Friday, a day after Vice President Mike Pence visited 3M.

The Minnesota Department of Health announced the first confirmed presumptive case of coronavirus in the state Friday, prompting government officials to urge people to stay calm and get informed. Meanwhile, event cancellations continue to roll in and some businesses are being forced to scale back.

“As we watched this outbreak spread in other states and countries, we knew it was likely that we would see it here in Minnesota at some point,” Governor Tim Walz said in a press conference. “I’m confident Minnesota is prepared for this. It’s natural to feel concern in a time like this, and the best way to address our concerns is to be as well informed as we possibly can be.”

The infected Minnesotan is an older adult in Ramsey County who had recently travelled on a cruise ship that had a known case of coronavirus. After developing symptoms, the individual sought help yesterday, officials said. While the MDH tests found the individual to be positive for coronavirus, the CDC had yet to confirm on Friday.

“We all need to be prepared for some challenges in the days ahead,” Walz said. “Even so, I’m confident of Minnesota’s ability to come together as we have come together so many times. And we’ll make sure we get everyone through this.”

Health officials are working on finding and contacting all those who may have come into contact with the person, all of whom will be asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days, MDH commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

Earlier this week, two University of Minnesota students were asked to self-quarantine after coming into close contact with a person infected with COVID-19.

U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips reminded Minnesotans to direct questions and concerns to the MDH Coronavirus Hotline at 651-201-3920.

“Today’s announcement of a coronavirus (COVID-19) case in Minnesota is cause for concern but not cause for panic,” Phillips said in a statement on Friday.  “I’m grateful to the extraordinary public health officials in Minnesota for their quick and transparent response.”

The Business Impact

 

On Thursday, Walz, the FDA commissioner, and Vice President Mike Pence visited 3M to see how the company is responding to the coronavirus, 3M spokesperson Jennifer Ehrlich said in a statement via email.

“We are maximizing production at all of our manufacturing facilities around the world that produce respirators including the U.S., Asia, Europe and Latin America to help meet demand. We make millions of respirators every month and we are working closely with government and health officials around the world to help get supplies where they are needed the most,” she said.

While Sun Country Airline’s schedule has remained steady for March, the airline is cutting back flights for April.

“Travel demand is being impacted by the uncertainty around COVID-19, and we’re seeing softness in bookings for April and May. In response, we’ve made targeted capacity adjustments,” spokesperson Kirsten Wenker said. “Our hope is this will be the extent of our schedule changes, but this is a unique situation, so we will continue to closely monitor demand for necessary adjustments.”

Big local events are also being cancelled, with Chanhassen-based religious organization Eckankar’s springtime summit for April being cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. Land O’Lakes was among the Minnesota companies scheduled to participate in South by Southwest, the major music and interactive media festival in Texas, which was cancelled on Friday by the city of Austin.

In retail, despite cautions to remain calm, shoppers across the country are panic-buying supplies like hand sanitizer, ammunition, and packaged goods. “Aggressive shopping,” is how Target Corp. CEO Brian Cornell described it in an earnings call earlier this week, which was moved to webscast due to concerns about holding the event in New York.

Walz continues to emphasize the state’s preparedness.

“The state of Minnesota is taking this very seriously, and has been for weeks,” Walz said. “Minnesota is fortunate to have a strong public health sector and world class health care providers working hard to keep us healthy.”

Visit the CDC’s website for more information about COVID-19.