Kris Ehresmann, a key architect of the state’s response to the COVID pandemic, will retire in February after more than 30 years at the state’s health agency.
The state’s infectious disease director, Ehresmann started working at the Minnesota Department of Health in the 1980s as a student worker. Since then she has held several key roles in the agency’s infectious disease department and oversees over 100 workers who monitor diseases spread by people and animals as well as from contact with contaminated food and water.
“Serving as the director of the infectious disease division has been one of the great honors of my life,” Ehresmann said. “Like so many people who have worked in a job they love, I have mixed feelings about saying goodbye. That said, it has been my privilege to work with an amazing team and I have every confidence I am handing the baton to the best in the business.”
While most of the agency’s work has been out of the public eye, the historic COVID-19 pandemic has thrust the epidemiologist into the spotlight. Ehresmann regularly spoke to the media and the public through briefings broadcast on the internet, usually accompanied by Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.
“Kris Ehresmann has played a huge role in public health not only in Minnesota but nationally,” Malcolm said. “I have the highest regard for her skill as a public health worker, a communicator and a leader. She has helped guide Minnesota through many difficult public health challenges, and along the way she cultivated a new generation of talented public health leaders within MDH and across the state.”
During a recent briefing, she shared that she had become infected with COVID-19, along with her husband and father. As usual, she used it as a teaching moment to remind the public to stay home at the first sign of any symptoms, be it a cold, flu or COIVD-19.
“If you have any symptoms of feeling off you need to isolate,” she said. “You can’t guess what you have.”
Ehresmann received her bachelor of science in nursing from St. Olaf College, and a master of public health in epidemiology from the University of Minnesota.
Emily Emerson, the current assistant director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division, will assume the role of interim director while MDH conducts a national search for a new director.
This is a developing story. Check startribune.com for updates.