"We have to figure out how we're going to combine everyday life and living, and dying with this virus"

Dr. Michael Osterholm details where Minnesota is at with the coronavirus and testing

The Morning News with Dave Lee
May 11, 2020 - 12:10 pm

As Minnesota enters week seven of the stay at home order, Dr. Michael Osterholm says that we aren't that much further down the road in the fight against COVID-19.

"I think the challenge we have right now is that where the population is and where the virus is are, unfortunately, two different places, I think people are all thinking we're over the hump, getting get reopened. Everything's gonna be okay, and we're gonna move on. And we have to deal with our economy, we have to deal with how we live with this virus as well as we have to deal with what it's doing. And right now, we have as much virus activity in Minnesota as we've had since the beginning of this pandemic."

Minnesota has had 11,799 confirmed cases and 591 deaths since the pandemic started. Osterholm says those numbers are low and that the infection rate has to be higher. 

"We're probably in Minnesota, somewhere around the 5% infection level, meaning that 5% of our population has been infected. The virus is going to keep circulating. In fact, it may actually cause a major wave of activity until it gets to about 60 or 70% of the population infected or we have a vaccine and get to that 60 or 70%."

While Governor Tim Walz has started to allow some businesses to reopen and is loosening restrictions in the state of Minnesota, many residents are calling for a full reopening of the state. Residents are citing openings in Georgia and Texas as models to be followed. Dr. Osterholm says that we shouldn't plan on going to fast in reopening the state. 

"I just don't think people yet understand that this is not a couple of weeks or a couple of months process. This is something that's going to last for months. And we have to figure out how we're going to combine everyday life and living and, unfortunately, dying with this virus."

Dr. Osterholm also discussed the problem around testing in Minnesota and America. He says that symptomatic people have been given too many different directives about testing. 

"We've had such back and forth messages because we've had such a limitation in testing in the past and it has had to do with the fact we didn't have enough reagents, we didn't enough have swabs, etc, so that people have gotten mixed messages," Osterholm says. "It is important if one has flu-like symptoms right now to get tested."

Testing sites have popped up all over the Twin Cities. Dr. Osterholm says that going to your primary care doctor to get tested shouldn't necessarily be your first move. 

"What we have to do is match people up with where testing is available. And what I mean by that is not just going to your doctor's office, but in some cases, some laboratories are overtaxed on a given day, others are not. In Minnesota, what we've tried to create is a comprehensive model where the samples can be moved to the lab that has the best access on that given day, that's gonna be important so that people get results back quickly. But it is important to know if you are infected."



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