Gov. Tim Walz struck an upbeat tone in remarks to a Chinese New Year gathering Thursday night in Minneapolis and added later that he’s confident his state health officials are coordinating well with their federal counterparts in the effort to monitor for the coronavirus and respond to any confirmed cases in Minnesota.
Shortly before the State Department issued to Americans a “Do Not Travel” advisory Thursday night covering China over what it called a “public health emergency” in the world’s most populous nation, Walz said the Minnesota Department of Health “is in constant contact with the CDC [the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”
Walz spoke about the virus during a low-key New Year reception at the Weisman Art Museum hosted by the China Center of the University of Minnesota, which has a large contingent of Chinese nationals among its student body.
“The world demands solutions, and the two countries best positioned to be able to do that are the People’s Republic of China and the United States,” Walz, who taught in China in the late 1980s, told several dozen people at the reception.
His declaration drew strong applause. “We have so much in common,” he added.
Afterward, in an informal interview with news media, the governor said, “In Minnesota, we are putting out the alert to all the health services here at the University of Minnesota, all the hospitals” about how best to detect the virus and contain it if necessary.
Specifically, Walz said, doctors are being trained in asking the right questions of people who have traveled to the Far East, and the Minnesota Department of Health is “instantly sending on that information to the CDC,” when warranted.
China has so far counted 9,692 confirmed cases with a death toll of 213. Most of the cases have been in Hubei province and its provincial capital, Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. No deaths have been reported outside China.
Walz acknowledged that keeping the public informed about suspected cases in Minnesota of the coronavirus that have yet to be verified while not causing alarm is “a tricky point” that needs addressing. The two suspected cases so far in Minnesota have turned out to not test positive for the potentially deadly coronavirus.
Walz also pointed out that the CDC has been taking about 24 hours “and sometimes longer” to get coronavirus test results back to the states.
But while he and other governors were on a conference call earlier Thursday with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Walz said, he learned that “within the next week” the CDC will deliver the test kits directly to the Minnesota Department of Health.
He said that action means the state “will be able to … get a much quicker turnaround on results. That should eliminate some of the stress” that comes with uncertainty.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482