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Local leaders address Coronavirus preparations; say drive through testing is coming

Updated: Mar. 13, 2020 at 7:09 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Local leaders in the South Central Health Coalition addressed the cameras and the community Friday.

The topic is at the forefront of so many minds: preparations for the coronavirus hitting our area.

As of Friday afternoon, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in south-central Minnesota or Mankato.

Despite the lack of confirmed cases, the South Central Minnesota Health Care Coalition and partnering hospitals are preparing for if the virus were to show up in Mankato. They urge everyone to keep calm and carry on.

“Residents should prepare and not panic. Let me say that again: Residents should prepare but not panic,” says Eric Weller, South Central Minnesota Health Coalition coordinator.

Necessary steps are being put into place, and like many cities across the United States, drive-thru testing sites are coming to area clinics.

“We’re in the process of now establishing a drive-thru testing site in Mankato, Fairmont and New Prague. That will be coming soon,” says Dr. Eric Gomez, Infectious Diseases specialist, Mayo Clinic Health System.

Health professionals say if you do think you're displaying symptoms to call first before setting up an appointment to be tested or visiting the hospital.

“We are setting up a hotline we’d like people to call. The number for that is 507-389-8548. We will again be encouraging people to call to discuss their symptoms prior to coming in and we’re advising against anyone just showing to the clinic to be tested for symptoms,” says Dr. Colin Weerts, Family Medicine, Mankato Clinic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to influenza, and testing kits used to identify the virus are the same as those used for the flu.

The Minnesota Department of Health and Mayo Clinic Health System is handling the distribution and collection of testing kits.

The overall quantity of those kits is dependent upon location as clinics prepare to encounter those with COVID-19.

“It’s not a special kit that you need to have from them to test. It’s a swab that we all have that’s used to test flu - it’s the same swab - so we send that to them. The capacity will be dependent on the institution running the test,” says Gomez.

Medical professionals also urge those who are in close contact with confirmed cases of the virus to self-quarantine.

“We usually recommend that family that has been exposed to, if they can, to stay at home to quarantine just waiting for the symptoms to appear or at least know that you’re out of that window of incubation,” says Gomez.

Again, area hospitals and organizations are simply preparing for if and when the virus does appear here.

“I just want to reiterate again that this is about preparedness, not panic. We want to assure our communities we do have plans in place. We are continuously looking at those plans on moving forward. We’re working as not only a community but as a region and as a state,” says Weller.

The subject of whether schools and classes will remain open or closed was also addressed at that conference.

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