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Local public health officials plan for coronavirus

Brett Bachtle
Created: February 26, 2020 07:37 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- While new cases of the coronavirus are being reported every day, local health officials say they're putting plans together in case the virus is discovered here in Minnesota.

"Well, I think right now, we don't know. What we're doing in public health is watching the situation very closely,” said Graham Briggs, Director of Public Health at Olmsted County Public Health Services.

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While ongoing monitoring and preparations are important, local health officials say they're only at the 'what if' stage of the conversation.

"The risk is low in Rochester. If you go to the mall today, your chances are very low of getting exposed to coronavirus,” Graham said.

Olmsted County Public Health is currently working on a plan for what they'd do if a case popped up here.

"It's just thinking through and writing down and making sure that we've got all of our ducks in a row on how we would ensure that somebody can stay home and away from other people and at what point would we think about who needs to be on fever watch and when they need to stay home from school or work,” said Graham.

While public health officials say the virus does not need to be a top concern for people, the crisis is on the minds of many. 

Employees at Rochester Community Pharmacy say they can't keep masks on the shelves.

"People have been coming in to ask about if we have masks and we're out right now. The usual comment is, 'Why is everybody in town out? Every pharmacy I've been to today – nobody has it. What's going on?” said Seyi Faseemo, manager at Rochester Community Pharmacy.

The pharmacy says they can't even get their hands on more masks and that they're currently on backorder.

However, Olmsted County Public Health says it's important to remember that right now in Minnesota, you're more likely to get the flu.

"There's no need to wear masks in the public right now. The chances of being exposed to coronavirus are very small." Graham said.

Graham also said they're working almost daily with Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center, and area schools to supply them with the most up to date and accurate information on the virus.

Public health officials have several tips to prevent exposure to not just the coronavirus, but all viruses. They say you should cover your coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands. They also suggest using hand sanitizer.


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