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1st confirmed COVID-19 case reported in Le Sueur County

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) notified Le Sueur County Public Health Sunday of the first lab confirmed case of COVID-19 in Le Sueur County. The individual is in their 40s and is recovering at home.

According to MDH, the individual was not hospitalized and no work exposures were identified. As of Monday, there were no further cases identified in Le Sueur County. Check www.lesueurcountynews.com for the latest updates.

Of the first county case, Le Sueur County Public Health Director Cindy Shaughnessy said, “This does not come as a surprise as we know COVID-19 is circulating in communities across Minnesota, even in counties without a confirmed positive case. That is why it is extremely important that everyone take the community mitigation strategies seriously. Le Sueur County and Le Sueur County Public Health are working hard to make sure our communities have the accurate information they need to stay safe and by working together with all of our communities partners, we will get through this together.”

Minnesota Department of Health staff are conducting the case investigation. Positive cases are isolated at home to prevent disease spread and the contact investigation identifies their close contacts. Close contacts are quarantined for 14 days from their exposure and monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.

Gov. Tim Walz and MDH have implemented community mitigation measures to help slow the spread of COVID 19 in Minnesota. Slowing the spread will ease demand on the health care system. Le Sueur County Public Health officials encourage everyone to continue to follow the recommendations of medical experts on how best to protect themselves and contain the spread of this virus.

Those recommendations include: stay home if sick; wash hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizer; cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow; avoid touching mouth and face.

In a majority of cases, COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. Call your health care provider if you have difficulty breathing or illness you cannot manage at home.

MDH has set up a public hotline that is open 7 a.m. tp 7 p.m. Hotline number: 651-201-3920. Go to the CDC and MDH websites for the most up to date information about COVID-19: CDC website on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) — www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. Minnesota Department of Health — Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) — www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html.

Tri-City United, along with other local districts, has implemented a lunch pickup and delivery service amid coronavirus-related school closures. Meals can be picked up at the Lonsdale, Montgomery and Le Center Schools or at bus stops. (Photo courtesy of Tri-City United)

Pat Beck / By PAT BECK pbeck@stpeterherald.com 

Luke Stoffel, born and raised in Le Sueur, bowled a 300 game and an 800 series at the 300 Club in Le Sueur. (Pat Beck/St. Peter Herald)

Kylie Mouser (left), the operations manager for Community Pathways of Steele County, trains in Kim Schaufenbuel, the president of the United Way of Steele County, in taking curbside orders for the Marketplace — formerly known as the Food Shelf. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Community Pathways is desperate for volunteers as their normal volunteer pool is mostly retired individuals. The United Way staff are filling in to assure everyone has proper access to food. (Annie Granlund/People’s Press)

Social Distancing Woman is a superhero at Patrick’s On Third with the power to loudly remind people to practice social distancing and wash their hands. (Photo courtesy of Patrick’s On Third)

Le Sueur County declares state of emergency, closes county courthouse and parts of the justice center

COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise in Minnesota, and it’s only a matter of time until a case is detected in Le Sueur County, according to county Public Health Director Cindy Shaughnessy. As a result, the Le Sueur County Board of Commissioners declared an emergency meeting, and on Wednesday, March 18, declared a state of emergency to prepare the county for the incoming contagion.

The declaration shuts down all public-facing services, beginning Thursday, at the courthouse, justice center, Environmental Services and Highway Department, and orders department heads to find ways to provide services without face-to-face contact.

”We have not taken this decision lightly and understand the hardship this creates for our customers, clients, and residents,” wrote County Administrator Darrell Pettis in a press release. “We will undertake a period of planning now through April 6, to define creative solutions for serving our residents that do not require person-to-person contact, but deliver these important services. Our government services continue to function, but in a very different way in these times.”

Exceptions have been made for the lobby of the Sheriff’s Office, which will remain accessible for permit applications and necessary correspondence. The county jail will still continue to operate, though visitation is not permitted. The Le Sueur County Communications Center will continue to provide 911 response and dispatch services.

Court administration and probation services, will also remain accessible to the public.

“First and foremost, I want to thank you for being patient in this trying time,” wrote Sheriff Brett Mason in a press release. “It is known that these issues are certainly progressing rapidly and I can tell you that our local leaders are working hard each and every day to do the best we can to keep Le Sueur County safe, however, we can all admit this [is] a difficult time for all citizens of Le Sueur County.”

“Nonetheless, I can assure you that the Le Sueur County Sheriff’s Office will continue to provide you with the services you expect,” Mason continued. “That is not to say we are not taking precautionary measures, but we will continue to monitor certain issues and prioritize them in the best way possible.”

The decision came just a day after the commissioners heard from Shaughnessy at the Tuesday, March 17 commissioners meeting. The public health director warned that the coronavirus is more contagious than influenza and with a 2.3% fatality rate, is more dangerous, particularly for elderly population and those with underlying health conditions, like diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure.

“Most of us here, if we get COVID-19, we will recover,” said Shaughnessy. “But our folks with underlying health conditions have much more severe consequences. So we really want to protect all those people.”

If the virus isn’t slowed down, Shaughnessy said it could overburden hospitals which are already stressed with influenza cases.

“If you do nothing, it peaks,” said Shaughnessy. “It overwhelms your health care system, and yes, it does go away. But what we want to do with the mitigation and all those things we’re putting in place is to flatten the curve because what we’ve seen happen in China and what we’ve seen happen in Italy is the health care system gets overwhelmed and that’s when you see a lot of deaths … We can’t stop it, but we know that if we slow it down, we can save more lives.”

No recommendation to close the county buildings was made at the Tuesday meeting, but the commissioners agreed the decision whether or not to close the the buildings would have to be made this week. Other counties in Minnesota have also declares states of emergency, including Rice, Dakota, Steele, Waseca, Sibley and others in southern Minnesota.