by CHRIS ROGERS
The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in Winona County doubled in one day on Tuesday, jumping from five to 10. Local and state health officials stressed that this is just the number of positive tests. The actual number of cases is greater, and the virus is spreading widely in the local community, they stated.
“Stay home, everyone,” Winona County Health and Human Services Director Karen Sanness urged. “Please stay home.”
All 10 cases are among staff and residents of long-term care facilities. One new case was reported on Monday, and five more were announced on Tuesday. The six new cases include one individual in their 20s, one in their 30s, one in their 40s, two in their 50s, and one in their 90s. All six are recovering in isolation, according to Winona County. Asked if the young and middle-aged patients were staff members at long-term care facilities, Sanness explained, “I’m making that same assumption, too, that they are potentially workers, but we don’t get that information.”
All six cases are believed to have been caused by community transmission — meaning the individuals caught the virus locally, Sanness reported. Asked if all six new cases are connected to previous confirmed cases, she said, “Not all of them are connected, no.”
Winona County’s first four COVID-19 cases were all at one Winona nursing home. Some of the six new cases are at a different long-term care facility or facilities, but it is unclear how many or which ones. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) gathers information on new cases and shares some of that information with counties. Sanness said she could not confirm whether any of the new cases were at that same facility as the first four because the information the MDH gave her did not specify. However, Sanness reported that at least one of the new cases is at a facility outside of the city of Winona. Neither the county nor the state will confirm which facility has cases to protect the privacy and the facility and the patients.
The public and the press is now dependent on counties for much of the information about specific COVID-19 cases. An MDH spokesperson stated, with so many new cases across the state, the agency no longer had time to answer questions about specific local cases. “Our [epidemiologists] are stretched,” MDH Public Information Officer Julie Bartkey wrote. Responding to questions about the Winona County cases, she wrote that the agency would add more details to its website over time, “so keep watching, but we simply can't provide this level of detail simply because of manpower.”
With community transmission of the virus definitely happening locally, “Adhering to community mitigation guidance and staying home when sick are even more important,” MDH Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann said last week.
For more information on how to protect your community and yourself, visit the MDH and U.S. Centers for Disease Control websites.