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Olmsted County reports first COVID-19 death

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(KTTC) -- Health officials are reporting the first death of an Olmsted County resident related to COVID-19.

Olmsted County Public Health reported on Thursday that the individual who tested positive for COVID-19 was in their 90s and was a resident of a long-term care facility.

“Although this is not unexpected, it is still sad news for our community. Our hearts go out to all the loved ones and care givers affected by this tragic death, and to all those suffering from this virus,” Graham Briggs, the Director of Olmsted County Public Health Services, said in a news release. “We are committed to fighting the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota and across the country. Together we will get through this historic health challenge.”

Olmsted County Public Health said it is believed that the individual contracted the virus through community spread.

"I think there's some thought here that this could be the calm before the storm," said Briggs.

Health officials want to remind the community that there is proof that social distancing prevents COVID-19 deaths.

"There is mounting evidence that social distancing is working and the community can do this together," said Briggs. "At this time, this is the best way to prevent transmission and severe outcomes like today's unfortunate development."

Earlier on Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported that 742 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state, and 18 people have died. MDH said 31 percent of patients who tested positive were likely exposed through community spread.

MDH said 66 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Olmsted County, about 18 percent of those are from community transmission.

"Not because we're seeing more transmission," Briggs said. "We're actually seeing indications that we're not seeing a lot of transmission here right now, but we are doing a little bit more in depth testing that other places are."

With all the uncertainty and fear lingering, many have started making and wearing personal protective masks, even though the CDC has not recommended that practice.

"Those might provide some level of protection or at least psychological comfort," said Kari Etrheim of Olmsted County Public Health.

Another source of comfort, news of a new treatment being development. It involves using antibodies from the blood of patients who have built up immunity to the cornonavirus.

"With the goal that antibodies from recovered patients will be able to bind, kill and inactivate in these sick patients and essentially help them recover faster," said Dr. Elitza Theel.

For now, all you can do is keep social distancing as we track how much it decreases the spread of the virus.

"That's something that we're going to want to keep an eye on over the coming weeks," said Briggs.

"Things that we're doing now, we're doing it today so that we have a better tomorrow," said Etrheim.

While the plasma treatment trials are set to begin soon, Dr. Theel reminds everyone that this is only an attempt at a temporary solution until a vaccine is developed.


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