ST. LOUIS COUNTY — Two more cases of COVID-19 were identified in St. Louis County on Thursday, bringing the county’s total to five. Statewide totals reached 346, according to the Minnesota Health Department, with a second death reported in Ramsey County.

A St. Louis County spokesperson said that the new coronavirus cases are linked and involve two women in their 20s who are recovering at home. Officials say neither are believed to be the result of community spread.

The first confirmed COVID-19 case in St. Louis County was reported last Saturday and the second this past Monday, both women in their 60s. A third case was confirmed Wednesday linked to a woman in her 30s. All three contracted the virus through domestic travel and are recovering at home.

County-based medical providers said they are preparing for a surge in patients, but are uncertain when that is coming, according to Dr. Nicholas Van Deelen, chief medical officer at St. Luke’s in Duluth, who spoke at a joint press conference Thursday with Essentia Health.

At a live-streamed press conference, Dr. Jon Pryor, president of Essentia’s East Market, said that the company has been making preparations in the Twin Ports and in communities on the Iron Range. He noted unanswered questions about when the outbreak will expand, how many people it will impact and how long it will last.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and health officials have said between 40-80 percent of the state will be infected, with the vast majority recovering from home. That translates into 2.24 million to 4.48 million people being potentially infected out of the 5.6 million statewide population.

“When this hits we will need all hands on deck,” Pryor said. “If it’s not chaotic today, it will be chaotic tomorrow. This is something none of us ever experienced in our lives.”

The Minnesota Department of Health has reported that 346 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state and two deaths, both in Ramsey County. The most recent death was announced Saturday, an individual in their 80s.

State officials reported more than 12,000 approximate tests between state and private labs and 134 of the 346 positive cases of COVID-19 are no longer in isolation, with 31 currently hospitalized.

Anyone with questions regarding identifying symptoms or whether testing is needed can call Essentia Health at 1-833-494-0836 or St. Luke’s at 218-249-4200.

Non-clinical questions, such as preventative steps to take or anything travel-related, can be directed to the St. Louis County Public Health information line at 218-625-3600 or the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-3920.

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