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COVID-19 confirmed in Lincoln County

The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed that a person from Lincoln County has tested positive for COVID-19, Southwest Health and Human Services said Friday.

The case is the first officially reported in our area, but SWHHS Public Health Director Carol Biren said it is likely the coronavirus is circulating in our communities.

“With more cases being confirmed in Minnesota and the nation, it was only a matter of time before the virus was in our area,” Biren said in a Friday press release. Biren said area residents need to follow best practices to slow the spread of COVID-19, including washing their hands, staying home if they are sick, following Gov. Tim Walz’s “stay at home” order, and calling ahead before going to a hospital or clinic.

The confirmation of a COVID-19 case in the area came on a day when the MDH reported 52 new cases statewide, bringing the total up to 398 confirmed cases. As of Friday, 34 Minnesotans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, the MDH said. A total of four deaths have been reported.

Gov. Walz has issued a “stay at home” order for the next two weeks, to help slow the spread of the coronavirus and avoid overwhelming hospitals and intensive care units. The order went into effect as of midnight Friday.

Lauren Mellenthin, emergency preparedness coordinator for SWHHS, said Friday the agency would not release more information about the Lincoln County resident who tested positive, to respect their privacy. However, she said the MDH is investigating with people who may have been in contact with the person. The Lincoln County resident is following all recommendations from the MDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SWHHS said.

Preparations to deal with more cases of COVID-19 in the area is ongoing, emergency response leaders said. While there are still no confirmed cases in Lyon County, responders and health care providers need to be ready in case of a surge in numbers of people with the illness, said Lyon County Emergency Manager Dan DeSmet.

“We’re hoping that social distancing . . . is helping to reduce that big influx,” DeSmet said. But at the same time, area emergency responders and health care providers are working on finding alternate sites for providing medical care if hospitals are crowded, and transportation for COVID-19 patients. If local response efforts should be in need of volunteers in the future, they’ll also get the word out.

“We’re looking at all the different avenues,” DeSmet said.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic poses some unique challenges for local response, DeSmet said. One is that we may need to rely more on local resources, he said. If there are big surges of COVID-19 cases in other parts of Minnesota at the same time, there may not be a lot of medical resources available to assist local responders.

DeSmet and Mellenthin said local emergency planners are continuing to work together with other agencies at the state and local levels.

“We continue to work with our partners in all six of SWHHS counties on preparing for additional cases, providing education to our communities and assisting health care facilities on the possible strain on their systems,” Mellenthin said.

More local information and resources about coronavirus, as well as prevention and health recommendations, is available at SWHHS’s Facebook page, or online at http://swmhhs.com/coronavirus/.

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