Pawlenty: 'Realistically, we should expect more cases'by Ambar Espinoza, Minnesota Public Radio
State officials went to Cold Spring Thurasday to talk about the first confirmed case of the H1N1 flu in Minnesota. They reassured area residents that the state is ready to deal with this.
Cold Spring, Minn. — Gov. Tim Pawlenty said state and local officials have already met to talk about how they're responding to the first confirmed case of H1N1 flu. He wants the public to know that the state is well prepared for an influenza epidemic and he again encouraged people to stay calm.
"So it is a cause for concern, but it is not a cause for panic," Pawlenty said. "Our goal here is to do everything that we can to try to contain and minimize the chances that this will spread in Minnesota. But realistically, we have to acknowledge that we should expect more cases."
The governor said the state is investigating to try to identify the source of Minnesota's first confirmed case, and the range of impact in the community. Officials won't identify the sick person, citing privacy concerns, only saying that the person has ties to Rocori Middle school.
The middle school will remain closed through next Tuesday. Students at neighboring St. Boniface Elementary -- which shares some facilities with the middle school -- will return to school on Monday.
Rocori school district Superintendent Scott Staska said the students don't seem overly worried. He says they have a good sense of humor about what's happening around them.
"The middle school kids are enjoying the time. The high school kids tell me they wish it was them, that they could be home for a few days," Staska said. "Other than that, I don't sense an increased concern."
Staska said his two sons, who go to Rocori High School, have told him their classmates wish the entire district would close. He said plans to wipe down and disinfect the middle school will be easier without any students around.
Staska said so far there are no plans to extend the school year to make up for lost time. But he is brainstorming with other school officials about possibly assigning more homework for the middle school students.
The rest of the community seems to carry the same sense of calm that the students have, according to Cold Spring mayor Doug Schmitz. Schmitz said people didn't panic when they learned about the state's first probable case of H1N1 flu, and he doesn't anticipate panic now that the case is confirmed.
"They're saying it's just a mild case and it has the symptoms of the regular flu so I don't think it's like it is in some of the other countries where they have that big outbreak," Schmitz said. "We just have a few cases. They're really not overly concerned about it at this time."
Schmitz said the small close-knit town is well prepared as a community to deal with this new flu.
"If people are down and out with things, other people step in and bring 'em up," Schmitz said. "That's the good part of being a small town, you always have somebody that is going to step forward and help you out if you're having a difficult time and I think that's how we're going to get through this."
State officials said they'll continue to inform Minnesotans as they learn more about who else may have been affected by the H1N1 flu in Cold Spring. They're hoping to learn any patterns of this new flu.
- All Things Considered, 04/30/2009, 5:24 p.m.