Minnesota coronavirus patient had no meaningful ‘community exposures,’ health officials say

Patient wasn't in contact with anyone in society at-large for more than 10 minutes, according to the Department of Health.

3D print of a SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—virus particle. The virus surface (blue) is covered with spike proteins (red) that enable the virus to enter and infect human cells. (Submitted / National Institutes of Health)
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ST. PAUL -- The first person in Minnesota with a confirmed case of the coronavirus had no worrisome “community exposures,” state health officials said Saturday, March 7.

That means the patient was not in contact with anyone in society at-large for longer than 10 minutes or at a distance of less than six feet since first showing signs of the illness on Feb. 25, according to Kris Ehresmann, who heads the Minnesota Department of Health’s infectious disease division. The patient had one “health care” exposure when the patient went to a doctor Thursday, but the patient and health care workers all wore masks.

“That is considered very low risk,” Ehresmann told reporters during a Saturday morning conference call.

The patient, who stayed home as soon as symptoms began, exposed one family member to the disease, Ehresmann told the Herald, but that person is in quarantine and has had no concerning community exposures.

“This person did everything right,” Ehresmann said of the patient, who lives in Ramsey County, Minn., which includes St. Paul and several northerly suburbs. “From an epidemiologic standpoint, it’s about as good as you could ask for.”


Minnesota Department of Health workers announced the patient’s positive test on Friday. It was the first confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in Minnesota.

Ehresmann indicated that it’s almost certain the patient contracted the virus on the Grand Princess cruise ship, from which they disembarked on Feb. 21 along with 25 other Minnesotans.

Health department staff have spoken to all of those passengers. Only two presented symptoms of the virus, and only the patient announced on Friday tested positive for it. The remainder are now outside the coronavirus’ 14-day incubation window.

Twenty-one people still aboard that ship have since tested positive for the virus, leaving its 3,500 passengers and crew in a holding pattern while California and federal officials work to determine a place to dock it for mass testing. State health workers believe 42 Minnesotans are presently on board.

Also stuck on board are Grand Forks residents Paul and Kari Kolstoe. Kari Kolstoe has stage 4 cancer and is scheduled to re-start treatments in the coming days.

The Minnesota patient announced on Thursday is older than 65 and has “underlying health conditions,” Ehresmann said, but she declined to go into further detail. The patient has “mild” symptoms and is recovering at home.

State health workers ran coronavirus tests for 36 people on Friday, and the one they announced then was the only one that confirmed the disease’s presence. They planned to conduct tests on 20 more patients' worth of samples Saturday and expected to have results by the evening for 11 of them.

Globally, 102,472 people have been diagnosed with the virus, Mike Schommer, the Minnesota Department of Health's communications director, said Saturday, and 3,491 have died. In the United States, there have been 340 confirmed cases and 14 deaths.


Kris Ehresmann.jpg
Kris Ehresmann, who heads the Minnesota Department of Health’s infectious disease division, talks during a legislative committee in this Forum News Service file photo from 2015. (Forum News Service)

Related Topics: HEALTH
Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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