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Coronavirus concern leads to empty shelves at Twin Cities stores

There are no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Minnesota.
bottled water

Concerns over the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country has resulted in consumers rushing to Twin Cities grocery stores to stock up on household supplies. 

Empty shelves are becoming increasingly evident in Minnesota, where multiple reports from Twin Cities TV stations Sunday showed the scenes at select Targets, Costcos and other stores, perhaps a preview of what's to come if/when the novel virus is found in Minnesota. 

Goods that are apparently in short supply include bottled water, non-prescription medication, antibacterial hand sanitizer, and canned goods.

The Minnesota Department for Health advised people to gradually accumulate a decent stock of food and medication over the coming weeks, rather than rush out and panic buy.

Nonetheless, the DHS Commissioner Jan Malcolm on Monday thanked people for taking notice of this message and preparing for the arrival of the virus.

There have been six deaths confirmed in the U.S. from the coronavirus. The numbers pale in comparison to the approximately 89,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths worldwide, the vast majority of which have occurred where the virus began in central China. 

All six U.S. deaths were in Washington state, where CBS News reports that Seattle-area stores were "selling out of basic goods as people stocked up." 

There have no confirmed cases in Minnesota, with four patients suspected of carrying the virus all testing negative. Still, with health officials stating that the virus is likely to arrive in Minnesota eventually, stores are taking preparations. 

Target officials would not confirm that the empty shelves seen Sunday in at some stores in the Twin Cities was related to coronavirus fears, but corporate leaders will discuss coronavirus impacts during a Tuesday earnings announcement and call. 

Nationwide, the virus has been confirmed in 12 states, with New York City now confirming its first case. 

Italy has seen a growing number of cases in the past week, with more than 1,600 confirmed cases and 34 deaths. More on how the Italian government is defending the outbreak from CNBC

"This week will be decisive to see if measures the Italian government has taken to tackle the new coronavirus — including the lockdown of entire towns, restrictions of movement and closure of public places — are working, as the government announces more money to tackle the virus."

Restricting movement and shutting down communities where the virus is found has proved to be a semi-successful defense, with the number of new cases being reported in China reducing. It's the approach recommended by the World Health Organization, although it can bring significant disruption to day-to-day activities. 

“Disruption to everyday life might be severe,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center of Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, last week. 

Also last week, Kris Ehresmann, infection disease director with the Minnesota Department of Health, told MPR News that said Minnesotans should prepare for the coronavirus to hit hard, adding that if cases are widespread it will undoubtedly result in closures of schools, churches and other public places. 

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