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Facts not fear: What the Midwest should know about coronavirus

From the status of cases to symptoms and prevention, get the facts about COVID-19 coronavirus.


Coronavirus cases have been identified in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Minnesota saw its first case March 6 and Wisconsin saw its first Feb. 5.

"Community transmission" has been identified in both states, meaning the virus spread from one person to another.

The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wisconsin residents can text COVID19 to 211-211, visit 211Wisconsin.org, or call 211 with questions.

MDH maintains a regularly updated webpage with "Situation Updates," including the status of "persons under investigation" who are being tested. MDH also has a larger COVID-19 coronavirus information page, with links to additional facts and resources about coronavirus.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services also keeps this page updated with numbers of tested cases, and those that tested positive, along with more information for Wisconsin residents.

RELATED: Status of coronavirus cases in Minnesota and Wisconsin

RELATED: How to practice social distancing


COVID-19 coronavirus cases have been reported in countries around the world, including the United States.

A project from the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering lets you track COVID-19 cases around the world using an interactive map. The map is best viewed on a desktop. Click here for a larger view from Johns Hopkins University.

RELATED: See all reported cases of coronavirus on this interactive map

The Associated Press has also created a map which tracks current cases in the United States, based on the data collected by Johns Hopkins.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, coronavirus patients have reported a mild to severe respiratory illness, with symptoms of cough, fever, and shortness of breath.

The CDC says those symptoms can appear within two days, or as long as 14 days after exposure.

Credit: TEGNA
Credit: KARE

RELATED: Here are the common symptoms of coronavirus


The CDC says the COVID-19 coronavirus is believed to spread mainly from person-to-person, particularly between people in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced by coughing or sneezing. The CDC says those droplets be inhaled or end up in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby.

The CDC adds that it may be possible to get the virus by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Credit: TEGNA

RELATED: Why some parts of the country are closing schools, avoiding events, and suspending the NBA season to stop the coronavirus

The CDC adds that people infected with COVID-19 are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (or in other words, when they are the sickest). 

"Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads," the CDC says on its website.

"It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads," the CDC says.

Credit: TEGNA


According to the CDC, at this time "there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms."

The CDC advises people who think they have been exposed to contact their health care provider.


The Surgeon General of the United States published a strongly worded tweet telling people to "STOP BUYING MASKS!" 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, masks are not effective for someone who's healthy, and won't protect them from catching respiratory diseases, including COVID-19 coronavirus.

Facemasks are recommended for people who are showing symptoms, because they can help prevent the spread of disease from them to others. Facemasks are also considered crucial for health care workers and caregivers.


According to CDC guidance for health professionals published in mid-February, doctors are advised to do a swab of a patient's nose and throat, as well as collecting a sputum sample. The sample is then sent for lab testing.


Numbers from the World Health Organization showed a survey of coronavirus patients from Feb. 16-24 showed mild symptoms in 80% of cases, with severe illness reported in 13.8% of cases, and critical illness in 6.1% of cases.

Credit: TEGNA


Health officials have said certain "underlying conditions" could make COVID-19 more serious for people of any age. The Minnesota Department of Health has published this list:

  • Blood disorders (e.g., sickle cell disease or on blood thinners).
  • Chronic kidney disease as defined by your doctor. Patient has been told to avoid or reduce the dose of medications because kidney disease, or is under treatment for kidney disease, including receiving dialysis.
  • Chronic liver disease as defined by your doctor. (e.g., cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis) Patient has been told to avoid or reduce the dose of medications because liver disease or is under treatment for liver disease.
  • Compromised immune system (immunosuppression) (e.g., seeing a doctor for cancer and treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation, received an organ or bone marrow transplant, taking high doses of corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant medications, HIV or AIDS).
  • Current or recent pregnancy in the last two weeks.
  • Endocrine disorders (e.g., diabetes mellitus).
  • Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders).
  • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease).
  • Lung disease including asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis or emphysema) or other chronic conditions associated with impaired lung function or that require home oxygen.
  • Neurological and neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions (including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy [seizure disorders], stroke, intellectual disability, moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury).

RELATED: Perspective: Why death rate numbers for coronavirus need some context


The Minnesota Department of Health has issued recommendations for people within the state to use "community mitigation" strategies. Those could keep changing and will be updated here.

The CDC recommends these everyday lifestyle tips for avoiding the spread of any type of respiratory virus:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

RELATED: Facts Not Fear | What you need to know about the COVID-19 outbreak


The CDC says to take these steps to avoid spreading a respiratory illness:

• Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
• Call ahead before visiting your doctor, so the office can take steps to keep other people from being exposed.
• Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Avoid sharing personal household items like cups, towels or bedding.

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Infectious disease specialist Dr. Michael Osterholm says it's a good idea to stock up on essential medication, supplies and non-perishable food, but he said the first thing everyone should do is talk to your loved ones and make a plan.

"What are they going to do if they get ill? Who will they call? How will they access the medical care system? Who is watching out for grandma?" Osterholm said. "We need, right now, to really develop communication plans so that we're checking on people every day."

The CDC also recommends creating a household plan of action as part of your preparations: 

• Meet with household members, relatives, and even neighbors about emergency planning.
• Plan ways to care for those who might be at greater risk.
• Create an emergency contact list.
• Practice good personal health habits.
• Choose a room in your home that can be used to separate someone who is sick from those who are healthy.
• Learn the emergency plans for your child's school or daycare.
• Learn about your employer's emergency operations plan.


When it comes to travel within the United States, the CDC says they generally don't issue travel advisories or restrictions. However, they do say that crowded travel settings, like airports, increase your risk of getting COVID-19 if other infected travelers are present. There are also areas of the U.S. that are experiencing more community spread than others. The CDC's guidance for travelers is updated frequently due to the "rapidly evolving" situation, so check out the latest recommendations here.

As for international travel, on March 19 the State Department issued a level 4 travel advisory for U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. Level 4 is the highest level of advisory and means "Do not travel."

"In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period," the advisory says.

The State Department has also been advising U.S. citizens not to travel on cruise ships, especially older adults and people with underlying health conditions. They also recommend avoiding crowded places and non-essential travel, like long plane trips.

RELATED: President Trump suspends travel from Europe to US for 30 days over coronavirus


With all of the businesses closing or limiting their services in response to coronavirus, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has eased some of the requirements for getting unemployment. Normally you have to be out of work for at least a week, and be searching for a job to qualify, but those requirements are waived.

The best way to apply is online at UIMN.org, because the call centers are mainly designed for people who don't have computers or don't read English.

Minnesota's unemployment insurance program provides up to 26 weeks of benefits, with checks equal to 50% of your normal paycheck up to $740 per week. That's generous compared to most states.

It normally takes one to two weeks for the first check to arrive, but officials are asking for people to be patient because of the sudden high demand.

There's also a system to help workers who aren't laid off but have their hours cut back substantially. Employers can apply to the state's Shared Work program to get partial unemployment to augment workers' pay.


The CDC says anyone sick with COVID-19 coronavirus should restrict contact around pets just like people.

"Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus," the CDC says.

Researchers in Hong Kong recently reported that cats and dogs can't pass the coronavirus to humans, but they can test positive for low levels of the pathogen if they catch it from their owner. 

RELATED: Dogs, cats can't pass on coronavirus, but can test positive


There is a growing list of events that have been canceled or postponed due to concerns about coronavirus. KARE 11 has a partial list of major canceled events.

RELATED: Coronavirus-related cancellations, postponements and impacts in the Twin Cities


The Centers for Disease Control has an in-depth frequently asked questions (FAQ) section on its website with additional answers for people looking for more information about COVID-19 coronavirus.

KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, learn more about the symptoms, and keep tabs on the cases around the world here. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215.