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Latest on COVID-19 in Minnesota: Virus continues statewide spread

MPR Staff

State authorities said Wednesday that 77 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Minnesota, but the actual number of people sickened by the novel coronavirus is likely much higher as the state grapples with a shortage of testing supplies.

Minnesota officials and public health experts continued their pleas for people to stay home whenever possible, practice social distancing and isolate if feeling ill.

“We’re asking a lot of sacrifice but it is worth it. It will save lives,” Gov. Tim Walz said.

Schools remain closed statewide, as do bars, coffee shops and restaurants, aside from offering take-out. There were six confirmed cases of COVID-19 contracted via community spread as of Wednesday.

“We’re seeing cases across the state,” said Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious diseases for the Health Department, adding that employers should not require their workers to have a positive COVID-19 test to take sick leave — it’s important they stay home.

Ehresmann said testing is less important than people staying home when sick. There’s a shortage of supplies at “several levels,” she said.

“When we do have evidence of community transmission, it becomes less important that individuals [get] tested for COVID-19,” she said. “There is no treatment, and so the testing is not necessary.”

However, Walz said Wednesday that it’s important for individuals to get tested. He said he’s pleading with federal officials for more aid — the governor said there are 1,700 samples frozen, awaiting testing, due to inadequate supplies.

“The lack of testing capacity is still hampering us,” he said. “It’s important on an individual basis to get a confirmation for treatment.”

Sixteen Minnesota counties now have confirmed coronavirus cases. One week ago, there were nine confirmed cases in just three counties.