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The daily coronavirus update: Minnesota sees first death from COVID-19

Photo: CDC/Alissa Eckert

For the foreseeable future, MinnPost will be providing daily updates on coronavirus in Minnesota, published following the press phone call conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) each afternoon.

Here are the latest updates from March 21, 2020:

One death; 137 confirmed cases

The Minnesota Department of Health announced the first confirmed death due to COVID-19 in the state Saturday.

The person who died was a Ramsey County resident in their eighties who had been in contact with a family member who had traveled internationally and had been confirmed to have the virus. The person had underlying health conditions in addition to being older — another risk factor.

The person first developed symptoms March 13, was later admitted to medical care, and died on Thursday.

MDH also announced an additional 22 new lab-confirmed cases in Minnesota, for a total of 137.

Confirmed cases in Minnesota since the beginning of the outbreak range from age 10 to 94. The 10-year-old in question, announced Saturday, is homeschooled.

Of the 137 cases, 12 have been hospitalized. Six are currently hospitalized, four in intensive care.

True number of cases likely much larger

Due to supply chain issues, the amount of testing Minnesota has been able to do has been limited. The map of Minnesota counties with confirmed cases continues to expand, but public health officials believe the virus has spread more than the data let on.

“We do believe there are more cases in Minnesota and that the virus is circulating in communities across the state,” said Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm in a press briefing Saturday.

A new Columbia University study suggests the number of undetected COVID-19 cases in the U.S. could be 11 times higher than the number of cases reported. Asked how accurate that could be, MDH officials said it could be an undercount by a wide margin.

As the number of cases in Minnesota has risen, they have shifted from being travel-related to more community exposure, meaning they can’t be traced to a known case or likely exposure during travel, said Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann.

Community mitigation

When asked whether community mitigation measures, like recommendations against holding large gatherings, and the closures of restaurants, bars and other public places, is likely to slow cases, Ehresmann said MDH doesn’t expect to see cases slow soon.

“We don’t anticipate the number of cases slowing down at all. If you look at what’s happening globally, we expect … we’ll see the number of cases increase, but our increase, because of all the mitigation efforts, should be slower than what would have happened without it,” Ehresmann said.

On MinnPost:

MDH’s coronavirus website:

Hotline, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.: 651-201-3920

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Orville H. Larson on 03/21/2020 - 08:21 pm.

    Well, I’d say some perspective is in order regarding this death.

    The late person was in his or her 80s. Given the age–plus the fact that, owing to poor health, the patient was debilitated–is this death a surprise? Anything else would have caused death–the flu, pneumonia, a cold. And speaking of the flu, some people die from it.
    And–important to remember!–most people who contract this COVID-19 recover.

    News coverage of this is verging on the hysterical. Too bad. It should be reasoned and nuanced.

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