MDH Commissioner: 89 confirmed COVID-19 cases 'just the tip of the iceberg'

Minnesota’s Department of Health commissioner said the state’s 89 confirmed COVID-19 cases are “just the tip of the iceberg.”

In her daily coronavirus news conference call, Commissioner Kris Ehresmann stressed that the 89 confirmed cases are laboratory confirmed, but that there is much more COVID-19 activity occurring across the state.

Ehresmann added that the vast majority of cases, about 81 percent, are mild. Only three Minnesotans have been hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday.

The commissioner said the state is not tracking suspected COVID-19 cases. 

A total of 3,038 people have been tested so far. There are now 19 counties with confirmed cases: Anoka, Benton, Blue Earth, Carver, Clay, Dakota, Hennepin, Martin, Mower, Nicollet, Olmsted, Ramsey, Renville, Rice, Scott, Stearns, Waseca, Washington and Wright. 

MDH issued a correction late Thursday night, stating they first thought a person who tested positive lived in Wadena County, but later learned the person lived in Clay County. There is still not a confirmed case in Wadena County.

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic. The Minnesota Department of Health confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Minnesota on March 6.  

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Several of the cases in Minnesota are now the result of community transmission. Community transmission cases occur when the individual who tested positive did not travel or have any known contact with someone with COVID-19. 

MDH has restricted the criteria to test for COVID-19 due to a limited supply of testing materials. They are giving priority to hospitalized patients as well as ill health care workers and ill persons living in congregate living settings such as long-term care. The new restrictions on testing will remain in place indefinitely until more tests are provided to Minnesota. 

As the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state climbs, state officials have begun enacting drastic measures to reduce the number of places the coronavirus can be spread.  

Since March 6, Gov. Walz has declared a peacetime state of emergency, closed all schools, closed public gathering spaces such as theaters, gyms and bars and limited restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders. Walz is also expanding unemployment benefits to employees impacted by the pandemic. 

RELATED: Details of Walz’s order closing bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters, other gathering places 

In addition, Walz and Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm announced a number of community mitigation strategies also aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus in the state. Among the recommendations are canceling or postponing gatherings with 250 or more people, such as concerts and sporting events, and employers allowing employees to work remotely if possible. 


MDH has two hotlines for questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The hotline for community mitigation (schools, childcare, business) questions is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The number to call is 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504. 

The hotline for health questions is also open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The number to call is 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903. 


MDH says if you have symptoms of a respiratory disease (such as fever, coughing, muscle aches, sore threat and headache) you should stay home for at least seven days and at least three days with without a fever (without fever-reducing medicine). 

If you have symptoms and can manage those symptoms at home, MDH said you do not have to seek health care or be tested for COVID-19. Just stay home if you are sick. If your symptoms worsen, if possible, call ahead before going into your health care provider. 

RELATED: Minnesota Dept. of Health narrowing testing criteria amid national shortage of COVID-19 tests

"People do not need to be tested for COVID-19 if they're in a situation where they'd be able to manage their symptoms at home; since there is no treatment for mild cases, there is no clinical decision that would be made based on the test result," MDH Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann said.


The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza is spread. It can also spread when people touch surfaces that have been contaminated by an infected person and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, patients with confirmed COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some patients have had other symptoms including muscle aches, headache, sore throat or diarrhea.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. 

The CDC and MDH recommend Minnesotans do the following to protect themselves and others and limit the spread of COVID-19: 

  • Stay home and away from others if you are sick
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
  • Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your face throughout the day
  • Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. The CDC recommends staying a minimum of 6 feet away.