PCPH Director Sarah Reese tells County Commissioners first case has fully recovered

    Polk County Public Health Director Sarah Reese hinted to the County Commissioners Tuesday that a jump in the number of positive COVID-19 cases would be announced this week by the Minnesota Department of Health and she was right as the numbers soared from three to 16 Tuesday and 17 total on Wednesday (according to the MDH website.) She added that the first case has fully recovered and is no longer in isolation.

    Reese told Commissioners it’s still “really important” to maintain social distancing with six feet of space and explained how that number came about.

    “Droplets go from my mouth to other people’s nose or mouth or whatever, and the distance (the droplets) can go is six feet which is why we need to be mindful and wear cloth face masks in public if six feet can’t be maintained,” she described. “There’s a variety of community volunteers making and donating cloth face masks. By me wearing one I’m protecting you and by you wearing one you’re protecting me.”

    Reese reiterated the need for residents to stay home and only go out for essential needs, wash hands frequently, avoid people who are sick, and isolate if you’re awaiting testing.

    “We need to slow and stop the spread of this virus,” she added. “We also need to limit time and space from people outside of our household unit.”

    District 1 Commissioner Jerry Jacobson then asked Reese if the first positive case of COVID-19 in Polk County required hospitalization or if they recouped at home, and was told that person did not require hospitalization. She added, after being asked by Jacobson, that she could not disclose which part of the county the first positive COVID case lives in.

    “We are very careful with patient confidentiality and don’t disclose any part of that,” Reese pointed out. “The important thing is we should all assume the virus is circulating in all parts of our community and we know there is community transition.”

    Reese said there is limited testing currently available and that should be “all the more reason” to adhere to the state-mandated stay-at-home order.

    The Times asked Reese during the Commissioner’s conference call how the county and/or MDH checks up on someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and she said that MDH is leading all investigations and contact with those individuals.

    “We (Polk County Public Health) get contacted if a positive case has an essential service need like they ordering groceries or if they’re new to the area and don’t know anyone to get their groceries or to have them delivered then we help with that,” she explained. “Polk County Public Health is not involved in giving directions and instructions for residents who test positive.”

    Commissioner Chair Gary Willhite asked Reese if there were any specific instructions for family members living in the home with residents who test positive and she said it depends if the resident is lab-confirmed and family members will be asked to stay home for 14 days after exposure to monitor symptoms.

    Reese also answered District 5 Commissioner Don Diedrich saying she wished she had a “magic 8-ball” when asked about looking to the future and what the response will be.

    “It would be unfair for me to make predictions, there are a variety of models developed with criteria,” she explained. “The more we can do now and be diligent, the better. What the state does or what the nation does I can’t speak, but I appreciate the governor using data to make decisions. I also appreciate the role of the economy and don’t want to compromise health moving forward.”

    “In Polk County we are seeing the bubbling of lab confirmed cases starting now,” Reese added.