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Agencies prep for coronavirus


March 6, 2020

Carlton County Public Health and Human Services reported last week that it is working with the Minnesota Department of Health and local partners on planning for a “unified response” to the COVID-19 virus that started in China and has spread across the globe and is now being blamed for several deaths in western U.S. states.

“CCPHHS is aware and updated regularly of the changes associated with the COVID-19,” a press release from the county stated. “Carlton County has plans in place to respond to an infectious disease outbreak. Employees are trained and practice these plans.”

The Cloquet Area Fire District had an emergency meeting Tuesday to appropriate money toward a response to any possible outbreak in the region. Chief Kevin Schroeder said the CAFD will be pre-ordering any supplies it may need in case there are shortages in the future. “We feel one of the largest potential local impacts may be the inability to obtain equipment and supplies if the virus continues to spread,” he said. “The release of additional funding will allow for the pre-order and increased inventory of supplies, and to conduct additional infectious disease training for all employees.”

The county health department is stressing that people heed recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The best way to prevent spread of any upper respiratory illness is to wash your hands frequently, stay home if you are sick, cover your cough, and get a flu shot,” the county reiterated. “At this point, CDC does not recommend the use of facemasks as a preventative measure for the general public. Influenza is currently widely circulating in the region, it is not too late to be vaccinated for flu.”

On Monday, state officials said they will be prepared if an outbreak occurs here. Health commissioner Jan Malcolm briefed Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders. She said Minnesota will likely see COVID-19 cases soon.

“Our state public health laboratory worked all weekend and is ready to start testing now,” Malcolm said. “We have the capability to do testing for COVID-19 in Minnesota, which will be very helpful to our efforts to quickly detect and then quickly manage these infections, should they show up here.”

Access to testing for the virus has had its hiccups in the past week, especially as deaths have occurred in Washington state. Walz said Minnesota health officials will be able to test up to 100 cases a day and more test kits can be ordered.

Walz and other governors are keeping in contact with officials in Washington, D.C. and the governor said he was meeting with state hospital officials this week to discuss capacities for patients.

“Preparation is not panic,” Walz said. “Preparation is the right thing to do.”

A hearing was scheduled in the Minnesota Senate this week to allocate $5 million to a public health emergency account.

Find more on preparing for epidemics on Minnesota Public Radio:


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