ST PAUL — Officials are encouraging Minnesotans to "be thoughtful" about travel plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic, especially if they are high-risk individuals.

At a Friday, March 13, news conference, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are not currently advising Americans to cancel or postpone all domestic travel plans, but she did recommend Minnesotans be cautious.

As of Friday, 14 Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by exposure to the coronavirus. Two have been hospitalized. Each of the cases detected were related to travel or interaction with someone who has traveled.

Gov. Tim Walz on Friday declared a peacetime state of emergency, and asked that Minnesotans do not hold or attend large events with 250 people or more, even if they are not displaying symptoms of COVID-19 (which are predominantly fever and cough). Public transportation facilities like airports are not included in that declaration, but Malcolm said if possible, she suggests Minnesotans postpone travel plans "out of an abundance of caution," especially if they plan to travel to an area experiencing an outbreak.

"One major caveat: If you are sick, please, please do not get on public transit," Malcolm said.

For those in high-risk categories — the elderly, immunocompromised and chronically ill — Malcolm suggested avoiding traveling.

For Minnesotans that decide to cancel travel plans out of caution, Minnesota Commissioner of Commerce Steve Kelly warned in a Friday news release that travel insurance may not cover the expenses. Kelly said many travel insurance policies have specific exclusions for epidemics and pandemics like COVID-19, and while policies typically do cover expenses if the traveler is sick or quarantined, they often do not cover trips canceled out of fear of contracting illness.

If cancellation is not covered under trip insurance, Kelly suggested contacting the airline or cruise operator directly for credit.

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