ROCHESTER, Minn. -- The first two residents to test positive for coronavirus in Minnesota in recent days were quickly interviewed about all of their contacts, but health officials don't expect to trace the linkages between infected persons for long.
"There comes a point when doing that is no longer sustainable," said Minnesota Department of Health Senior Epidemiologist Kathy Como-Sabetti in a daily press call with reporters on Monday, March 9.
While short on new information about the elderly Ramsey County resident who tested positive Friday, and the 50-something Carver County resident who tested positive Sunday, the briefing marked the beginning of a shift in local health officials' messaging.
Whereas as the first stage of the outbreak has had public health officials busy identifying how those who tested positive may have come in contact with the illness, then tracking any persons who may have had sustained contact with that individual, health officials say its goal is increasingly destined to become one of community mitigation.
Those are the little things each of us can do to slow the inevitable arrival of community transmission.
"The point is to decrease the number of cases presenting to health care at one time," Como-Sabetti said. "It's meant to decrease the height of the epi curve . . . so the health care system can respond to those who are ill."
"We are never going to be able to identify every person who has this," state epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield told a gathering of 2nd Congressional district county health officials in a meeting with Rep. Angie Craig on Friday.
Como-Sabetti said the actions all Minnesotans can take to help slow the virus included increasing online ordering, virtual learning and visits with relatives, and most of all, staying home from work when you feel a cold or fever.
"We have a culture where people try to tough it out through the day, and today is not the time. We are really encouraging people who are ill to stay home," Como-Sabetti said.
The Minnesota Health Department has tested 82 patients since last Monday, March 2, with all but two testing negative.
Globally, the virus has been diagnosed in over 111,000 patients, causing more than 3,800 deaths. In the United States, there have been 22 deaths in 556 cases as of Monday afternoon, with communal transmission in Washington State, California and New York State.
The department has set up a hotline manned from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at (651) 201-3920. On Sunday, it received 100 calls.
The state's COVID19 web page was accessed 40,000 times on Sunday. It can be found at health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html.