Most of the COVID-19 cases in Minnesota and Wisconsin are tied to travel, and public health officials are urging residents to reconsider any foreign and domestic trips.

To be clear, it’s not an outright warning against all travel. But health officials say residents should avoid going to places where the virus is spreading in the community.

California, New York and Washington state are the hardest hit in the U.S. Italy, South Korea, Iran and China have the most infections globally.

On Wednesday evening, March 11, President Donald Trump announced he was restricting travel from Europe, but not the United Kingdom, for at least the next 30 days. The U.K. and Ireland were added to the restricted list on Saturday, March 14. U.S. citizens will be able to return after “appropriate screenings.”

The State Department followed Trump’s remarks by issuing an extraordinary global health advisory cautioning U.S. citizens to “reconsider travel abroad” due to the virus and associated quarantines and restrictions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already has warned against “non-essential travel” to countries with widespread coronavirus infections.

There currently are no restrictions on travel within the U.S. However, Trump said Saturday he’s considering imposing restrictions on travel within the U.S. to areas hit hard by the coronavirus spread. “If you don’t have to travel, I wouldn’t do it,” he said.

Highest risk

Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease for the Minnesota Department of Health, said seniors and people with underlying health conditions should be the most concerned about traveling. Those are the people most at risk from the virus.

“People need to evaluate their travel in terms of their health status,” Ehresmann said. “It’s a fair thing for everyone to consider how they feel about traveling. People have to look at their own situation.”

Large corporations have already decided to limit non-essential travel, both in the U.S. and abroad. The University of Minnesota recently restricted trips and put the hold on spring and summer study abroad programs in countries hit hard by COVID-19.

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Travel exposures

Minnesota’s first coronavirus case was a person who traveled on the Grand Princess, before it was quarantined off the coast of California. The second patient, in Carver County, returned from a European vacation in late February. The third case, in an Anoka County resident, is related to contact with international travelers while in another state.

As of Saturday, 21 coronavirus cases had been confirmed in Minnesota.

All either were in contact with someone known to have an infection or traveled to a place where infections were widespread.

Wisconsin’s first case, diagnosed in early February, was in a patient who returned from China. Two recent cases, announced in Pierce and Dane counties, were of people who had traveled to parts of the U.S. with widespread infections.

As of Saturday, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Wisconsin jumped to 27.

Health officials in both states are working to identify everyone these patients were in contact with before they tested positive for COVID-19.

Taking precautions

The coronavirus travels in droplets of saliva and mucus. Health officials say you are at heightened risk if you are within 6 feet of an infected person for 10 minutes or more.

Health officials continue to try to contain the virus by isolating infected people.

The best way to keep from contracting and spreading COVID-19 is to wash your hands thoroughly and often, cover sneezes and coughs, don’t touch your face and stay home if you are sick.

Afton Alps closed

Meanwhile, as ski resorts across the United States grappled with how to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus without having to close, industry giants Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company decided Saturday they would shutter 49 of North America’s most well-known resorts, as well as Afton Alps in Washington County.

Vail Resorts, which owns Afton Alps, said it would shut down its 34 resorts for at least one week before reassessing while Alterra is closing its 15 until further notice. The Telluride Ski Resort in Colorado and the Aspen Skiing Company announced Saturday night that they will close ski operations, too.

The closures marked a sudden change of course after the majority of the country’s resorts vowed earlier Saturday to stay open during the crisis.



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