A third Otter Tail County resident has tested positive for COVID-19, and one of those cases appears to be in Perham.
The latest confirmed case in Otter Tail was announced Thursday, April 9, on the Minnesota Department of Health website. No other information has been released by the county or the state.
Meanwhile, Shearer's Foods confirmed Thursday that an employee in its Perham manufacturing location has tested positive for COVID-19.
The employee has been asked to self-quarantine at home for 14 days and has not come in contact with the product so there is no food safety risk, according to a Shearer's news release.
Otter Tail County officials continue to monitor the situation.
"We are aware of community spread occurring in Minnesota, and that will impact Otter Tail County as well," Jody Lien, Otter Tail County Public Health Director, said in an emailed statement to the Focus. "It is important for the public to continue to follow the governor’s executive order to stay at home, and to use social distancing and alternative face coverings if you do need to go out for essential needs."
Lien also recommends common preventative measures: wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home if you are sick and clean frequently touched surfaces.
"All of these actions are going to make an impact to slow the spread of COVID-19," she said.
Shearer's says it has taken steps to "identify and notify individuals who worked closely with the team member diagnosed with COVID-19 and have asked them to self-quarantine at home for 14 days," according to the release.
The Perham facility remains open, and the company says it has conducted a deep cleaning of the contacted areas and equipment based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and are using EPA-approved registered products for COVID-19, according to the release.
The CDC currently has no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food, although it may be possible for the virus to live on a surface or packaging, according to the CDC's website. The CDC does recommend that both employers and individuals take the necessary steps to clean and disinfect surfaces around using Environmental Protection Agency-approved products.
Shearer's employees were told about the COVID-19 case earlier in the week, according to multiple sources talking to the Focus.
Otter Tail County’s first confirmed COVID-19 case was reported March 29. In that instance, the adult patient was isolated at home and was being monitored by the Minnesota Department of Health. That patient did have recent international travel, according to the release. The county's second confirmed case was on April 5.
It is unclear if the Perham case represents the second or third reported positive case in Otter Tail County.
"We are aware of three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Otter Tail County, one of which was in the Perham area," Sue Von Ruden, Perham Health's Community Relations Director, said in an email to the Focus. "However, because of the small number of tests done early in this pandemic, it is likely the virus is present in every community and that there are many more cases."
Perham Health has been preparing for weeks for the surge of patients related to COVID-19, Von Ruden said. The hospital has been operating as if the virus is already present in our community, she said.
"As a reminder, we have created separate entrances, separate spaces to care for ill patients, well patients, and COVID-19 patients, separate ventilation systems, and are taking every precaution needed to be able to care for COVID-19 patients in one area of our building while safely caring for the rest of our medical population in another," Von Ruden said.
In all, another 88 Minnesotans have tested positive for the illness, state health officials reported Thursday, April 9.
The Minnesota Department of Health reported a total of 1,242 Minnesotans had tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. That number comes from 32,294 tested in the state.
Of the patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, 675 have recovered and no longer need to be isolated, 145 are in the hospital and 63 are in intensive care.
The state now has 50 reported deaths from COVID-19.
Health officials warn that that number is likely a significant undercount of the total number of Minnesotans who have or have had the illness. A shortage in testing has hampered their efforts to get a clearer picture of COVID-19's spread.
The reports come a day after Gov. Tim Walz announced that he would extend the state's stay at home executive order through May 4.
Forum News Service contributed to this report.
More information and assistance
- MDH COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920 or 800-657-3903. The hotline is available seven days a week, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
- School and child care hotline: 651-297-1304 or 800-657-3504
- MDH COVID-19 website: www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/situation.html
- Otter Tail County Public Health is available to answer general questions regarding COVID-19 at 218-998-8320 or 888-349-2581, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
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