MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — From crowded gatherings to quiet nursing homes, concern for public health is on everyone’s mind. That’s especially true now that Minnesota’s first presumptive case of COVID-19 was officially announced Friday.

“I know how we come together in a crisis,” said 2nd District Rep. Angie Craig.

Earlier in the day Friday, Craig brought state and county health leaders together for a candid conversation. She wanted to answer many of the questions already flooding into county health departments in her district.

“They’re asking what they should be doing if they don’t feel well, what information they need to give their families, if they should be staying home from school,” said Gina Adasiewicz, the Dakota County Health Department Deputy Director.

$10 million in federal aid will soon help Minnesota counties respond. The money will be used for hiring additional staff, buying medical supplies, protecting health care workers, and treating the sick.

“That will be doled out to the county health officials so we can staff up and make sure we have the nursing staff to handle whatever happens here,” said Craig.

Health officials say we can expect to see more telemedicine – which will diagnose the ill without a trip to the clinic – employed during an outbreak. They also expect students will be engaged in online learning if schools are cancelled.

A major part of COVID-19 planning is the push to keep sick visitors and staff out of long term care facilities. It’s a known fact that the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are more prone to serious complications from the disease.

“It could be that we would be responsible for calling those particular people that are coronavirus patients daily to have them to check their temperatures. That creates a lot of work if there’s more than one case,” said Adasiewicz.

So far, there is only one presumptive case of COVID-19 in the state. An older adult from Ramsey County recently traveled on a cruise. They developed symptoms of the respiratory illness on Feb. 25 and are currently in home isolation, recovering.

In the meantime, health experts say the state’s response to past pandemics prepare Minnesota for yet another.

Meanwhile, health experts say our response to past pandemics prepares the state for yet another.

Still, they stress the most effective defense begins with everyone at home – from hand washing to covering coughs.

Bill Hudson