by CHRIS ROGERS
A second Winona County citizen died from COVID-19 early this past week, health officials reported on Saturday. Three more individuals tested positive for the virus over the weekend, bringing the total to 14 in Winona County.
The newly confirmed fatality was a 100-year-old resident at a local congregate care facility, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Epidemiologists did not discover the infection until after the centenarian's death, Winona County Health and Human Services officials explained. “The individual had previously tested negative for COVID-19, but it was determined after death that the person had died from COVID-19,” they wrote.
State and local officials did not immediately provide details about the new infections, but all 11 of the county’s previously confirmed infections were at congregate care facilities — such as nursing homes. The county’s only previous death occurred at such a group living center.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Trempealeau County was reported on Friday, and the total in Buffalo County rose to two confirmed infections.
Lab-confirmed infections are just “the tip of the iceberg,” Minnesota officials warned. Far more people are actually infected, and the new coronavirus is spreading in local communities. That makes it even more important for people to follow guidance to stay home except for essential errands, stay six feet away from other people, cover coughs and sneezes, and wash hands and disinfect surfaces. People may be infectious without feeling sick, so just staying away from sick people is not enough to protect yourself from the virus, Minnesota health experts cautioned.
“Until widespread testing becomes available, do not assume you can prevent contracting COVID-19 by only avoiding obviously sick people,” Winona County health officials wrote in a press release. “Besides not interacting with obviously sick people, practice social distancing of at least 6 feet from everyone.”
Also on Saturday, the MDH released the names of all congregate facilities in the state that have more than 10 beds and have one or more cases of COVID-19. The MDH is not releasing the names of facilities with infections but fewer than 10 beds to protect patient privacy. The Winona nursing home Sauer Health Care was only facility listed in Winona County; however, county officials have indicated there is at least one case of COVID-19 at a long-term care facility outside of the city of Winona. It could be a facility too small to be listed by the MDH. Noting that people can be contagious before symptoms of COVID-19 arise, MDH Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann stressed, "Just because a facility is on the list does not suggest there was something that was a huge dropped ball on their part.”
County officials stated they have plans in place to protect citizens from the coronavirus outbreak to the best of their ability. “However, we cannot do it alone,” they wrote. “We need all members of our community to their part. Do your part by complying with Governor Walz’s executive orders to limit social contact and stay safe at home. Follow the advice of the MDH, the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control], and Winona County Public Health. Avoid unnecessary travel, maintain social distancing, wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, and stay home when you are sick. These simple acts will save lives and will slow the spread of COVID-19 to give our healthcare system the ability to treat COVID-19 patients.”