Minnesota Health Department officials reported 14 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday afternoon, including the first three instances of community transmission. The new cases bring the state’s total to 35 positive tests out of about 1,422 patients tested for coronavirus, up from 868 the previous day.
The announcement comes on the same day Gov. Tim Walz ordered Minnesota K-12 public schools to temporarily close.
State health officials said Sunday that people ages 20-94 have been infected with the coronavirus in the counties of Hennepin, Ramsey, Olmstead, Waseca, Washington and Dakota. The community transmissions were located in Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota counties.
Kris Ehresmann, director for infectious diseases at the Minnesota Department of Health, said that all previous cases had a travel history or direct exposure to another confirmed case. But the three new cases had no travel history or known exposure. She said that means there is transmission of the virus in the community, though officials have not identified any clusters of illness.
She described the community transmission patients as “surprised,” but were also people out in their communities.
Officials also said a case reported Saturday has a connection with a school, and authorities are reaching out to school officials to address the case.
"While most have an identified source of exposure, with the limitations that we've discussed on testing capacity nationwide, there's just much we don't know about the potential degree of community transmission in Minnesota," Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said at a morning news conference with the governor. “How effectively we can slow down and spread out the growth of this disease in our communities is the key."
There are no reported cases in St. Louis County in the northeast part of the state or other surrounding counties, so far. But the Ontario Ministry of Health reported Saturday that a resident of Fort Frances tested positive for COVID-19. Fort Frances borders International Falls in Koochiching County, about 100 miles north of the Iron Range.
Ehresmann said Sunday afternoon that there are currently no travel restrictions between Canada and the U.S., but said border officials and quarantine stations are informed on the virus and alert.
Candian health officials said the person in Fort Frances had recently returned from travel overseas.
“The individual was seen, assessed and tested in Winnipeg," Dr. Ian Gemmill, acting medical officer of health for Northwestern Health Unit, said in a news release. “This person is now recovering back at home in Fort Frances and is in self-isolation."
The health agency added, "The limited number of persons who have come in close contact with the person are in self-quarantine.”
MPR News contributed to this report.