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The criteria Minnesota doctors look for before testing for coronavirus

Health care providers follow specific criteria set by the CDC.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz made it clear Monday that now is "a time for preparation, not panic" as concerns of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak rise.

"The State of Minnesota is taking coronavirus seriously, and I receive daily briefings to monitor developments with this outbreak. While we are thankful that Minnesota has not had a case of novel coronavirus to this point, we are preparing for that possibility," said Walz. 

Right now, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has two testing kits. Each kit can test 400 people, with the MDH telling BMTN that it can test about 100 people per day. They can order more kits on an "as needed" basis.  

“The CDC continues to be a really importance source for us in guidance on who to test, what particular clinical symptoms really justify a test at this point, because we have to be a little careful about making sure that those tests are used on the cases that have the most probability of detecting this," said MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm. 

What are health care providers looking for to validate conducting a test?

  • Respiratory symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath)
  • Travel history
  • Close contact with anyone with COVID-19
  • Severe respiratory symptoms that require hospitalization. 

Not everyone with those symptoms will be tested for the virus. 

"If a health care provider has a patient that they are considering for testing either because of epidemiological reasons or because of very severe illness, they are asked to call MDH to consult with them and get guidance on testing," said Andrea Ahneman, communications specialist for the MDH Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division. 

"While we are following CDC guidance, we do consider each situation and have some latitude to consider testing if it falls outside of regular guidance. Those decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis."

Here's a visual of precisely what the CDC's testing criteria features: 

The new coronavirus is known to produce mild to severe fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, headache, sore throat and sometimes diarrhea. 

The MDH notes that symptoms are similar to other illnesses going around, including influenza, so experiencing the aforementioned symptoms does not mean you need to be tested for coronavirus. 

The best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands with soap and water, stay home when you're sick and cover your cough and sneeze.

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. But the outbreak in America is just beginning. 

The MDH tells Bring Me The News that it will not charge for coronavirus lab tests, but they are not sure if individual health care providers will charge.

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