Saturday marks one year since first confirmed case of COVID-19

Saturday marks one year since the first COVID-19 case was detected in Minnesota, setting in motion a series of events that would change life for almost everyone across the world.

On Friday, March 6, 2020, Minnesota health officials announced a Ramsey County resident who had been on a cruise ship had tested positive for the disease after developing symptoms in late February. At that point, only 100,000 cases of COVID-19 had been detected worldwide with 3,400 deaths. But, in the United States, concerns over the disease were quickly growing.

As Minnesota reported its first case, the U.S. had had only 233 confirmed cases nationwide and 14 deaths, with all of the deaths at a nursing home in the Seattle-area.

Prior to the first Minnesota case, the U.S. had already started restricting travel from areas in Asia and Europe where COVID-19 has spread. On February 28, a group of University of Minnesota-Duluth students had returned from South Korea after classes there had been cancelled.

While March 6, 2020 was the first confirmed case, some have speculated the virus could have been around Minnesota and the United States much earlier. One South St. Paul man we spoke with in April, who had tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, remembered falling ill in December, losing his sense of taste and smell in the process.

By March 25, as the state was reporting dozens of new cases each day, Governor Walz issued a stay-at-home order for the state. The order closed bars and restaurants along with many other public-facing businesses while asking people to avoid public gatherings.

The order was initially supposed to last from March 27 through April 10. But, days before the order was scheduled to end, Governor Walz extended the order until May. Over the summer, the order was eventually loosened, but as COVID-19 cases again began to spike in the fall, the governor again issued a COVID-19 pause, closing restaurants, gyms, and other businesses while asking people to limit in-home gatherings over the holidays.

As of Saturday, Minnesota has reported 489,116 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6,545 deaths since last March. But, after a tough year, things are looking up. Saturday, Governor Walz also reported more than 1,000,000 Minnesotans had now received at least their first COVID-19 vaccine dose.

This past week, the state also received its first shipment of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, which requires only a single dose to be effective. The governor believes the vaccine will be key in allowing the state to ramp up vaccinations.