by CHRIS ROGERS
The first Winona County citizen to die from COVID-19 passed away this week. Health officials reported on Wednesday that a 76-year-old Winona County resident who tested positive for the new coronavirus has died.
The individual lived at a congregate living facility — a catch-all term for nursing homes and other group living centers, according to Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann. State and local health officials did not immediately provide additional details, but based on the individual’s age, he or she was likely one of the people who tested positive early last week.
"Our hearts and thoughts go out to their family, friends and loved ones," Winona Mayor Mark Peterson said in a statement. "The Winona City Council and all city of Winona employees extend our deepest sympathies and condolences during this difficult time."
“Unfortunately, we’re starting out by offering condolences to five more our neighbors who have become fatalities of COVID-19,” Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said in a press conference on Wednesday, announcing five new deaths across the state.
The Winona County citizen’s passing is one of the first two deaths among long-term care facility residents in Minnesota, according to MDH Commissioner Jan Malcom. The death of another long-term care facility resident in the Twin Cities was also reported on Wednesday. There were 17 total COVID-19-related deaths in Minnesota as of April 1.
No new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Winona County were reported on Wednesday, but health officials cautioned that — because so few people are being tested — confirmed cases only represent “the tip of the iceberg.”
“There are more cases in Minnesota, and we are absolutely urge everyone to assume the virus is circulating in your communities,” Malcom said.
To save lives, everyone should avoid getting close to other people as much as possible, health officials advised. People who are suffering any symptom of COVID-19 should self-quarantine at home except to seek urgent medical care, they urged. For a full list of recommendations, visit the MDH and U.S. Centers for Disease Control websites.
"You can take the right actions today to save Winona residents' lives in the future," Peterson said. "It's up to all of us to work together to protect each other and our community."