South Central Healthcare Coalition

MANKATO — With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Mankato, local health officials called on residents to wear masks, practice social distancing and heed other health recommendations to limit further spread.

Blue Earth County and the South Central Healthcare Coalition both sent out press releases with the recommendations Thursday. The county has had about 107 new cases confirmed since Friday.

Mayo Clinic Health System and Mankato Clinic have had higher patient volumes at their respiratory clinics and testing sites in recent days as more people sought testing.

A state health official on Wednesday linked the increase in cases to young adult bar-goers. Of Blue Earth County’s cluster of new cases, 85% were between 19-25 years old.

The county’s release stated expanded testing and more contact between people in the community are contributing factors to the increase. People who took part in mass gatherings such as protests are getting tested more as well, although state health officials have said the gatherings haven’t led to an uptick in cases as feared.

Blue Earth County’s jump in cases prompted doctors from Mayo Clinic Health System and Mankato Clinic to issue statements urging residents to wear masks and isolate if they’ve been in contact with someone with COVID-19.

“Minnesota Department of Health research shows that a significant number of Minnesotans infected with COVID-19 are spreading the virus before showing symptoms,” stated Dr. Eric Gomez, infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic Health System. “This reinforces the importance for all of us, regardless of symptoms, to wear masks, socially distance ourselves, and wash our hands thoroughly and frequently to slow the spread of the disease.”

Dr. James Dungan, an occupational health physician at Mankato Clinic, stated people in close contact with coworkers or household members who have COVID-19 should self-isolate for 14 days. Symptoms can develop two to 14 days after exposure.

“A negative test does not mean an individual can return to work. A future test may be positive,” he said in a release. “By self-isolating for 14 days, you can help keep our vulnerable neighbors and community safe.”

Despite the rise in cases, South Central Healthcare Coalition Coordinator Eric Weller said area hospitals are “still in good shape” in terms of capacity. He reiterated that people should expect to see peaks and valleys for cases as the pandemic continues.

Younger people, who make up the vast majority of new cases in Blue Earth County, are less likely to have COVID-19 complications requiring hospitalizations. The concern is they can spread it to more vulnerable people if they don’t take steps to prevent transmission.

The full recommendations from the doctors include:

• Stay 6 feet away from others when possible.

• Wear a face mask in public settings where distancing is difficult to maintain.

• Stay home when sick.

• Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; use hand sanitizer when soap isn’t available.

• Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

• Contact your health care provider regarding symptoms and testing.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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