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Kurvers heeding 'social distancing' warnings

Wild's assistant general manager is a lung cancer survivor

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

Tom Kurvers didn't take the threat of coronavirus too seriously until almost two weeks ago, when the Wild was in San Jose, California prepping for a game against the Sharks.

That day, Thursday, March 5, Santa Clara County recommended that all events with large crowds, including Sharks games, be cancelled until further notice. The organization said it would play on anyway, and it did, with the Wild securing a 3-2 victory.

Earlier that afternoon, however, Kurvers got a call in his hotel room from Wild General Manager Bill Guerin, just a few doors away. Guerin insisted that Kurvers not attend that night's game. The risks were too great.

It was the first time in many weeks that Kurvers had to confront his reality. As a lung cancer survivor, Kurvers, who still takes a chemotherapy pill every day, and many like him are more susceptible to serious symptoms stemming from COVID-19, the current strand of coronavrus that has wreaked havoc around the globe.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the number of cases of coronavirus has skyrocketed past 5,100 nationwide and killed 100 Americans.

That includes 138 in Santa Clara County, some 12 days after the jurisdiction had 20, which prompted the warning from public officials -- and from Guerin.

"It was both firm, and caring," Kurvers said. "I wasn't even thinking about it. We got that news about the county making that declaration and then he just calls and says, 'you're not going to the game.' I almost needed to digest it ... but it was the right call for him to make. It was the right move and I think that was the first time I started thinking in those terms."

Its been two weeks since, although Kurvers said it feels like 10 years, considering the avalanche of information that has come out in the days after.

Last Wednesday, the NBA suspended its season after one of its players tested positive for coronavirus. That set off a chain reaction, as the seasons of virtually all professional and collegiate sports came to a screeching halt within a day or two of the NBA's announcement.

The Wild and the NHL hit pause on the 2019-20 season less than 24 hours later, with the goal of resuming the season once the threat from coronavirus subsides.

For now, Kurvers must live with the fact that, like everyone else in the United States, he's rather helpless in terms of a next step or what's to come.

Certainly, phrases like "social distancing" have become a part of his repertoire. He sees it in his every-day walks through his Minnetonka neighborhood, where he's been quarantined since last Thursday. The quick jaunt is about the only time he's able to get out of the house these days.

"You might not be getting those six feet when apart when you pass someone on the sidewalk. But there's definitely three feet for sure," Kurvers said. "You're certainly not bumping shoulders anymore."

It's these walks that have helped Kurvers get back to health in the 14 months since his initial diagnosis. In the weeks afterward, Kurvers returned to work but would often have to take naps in the chair stationed next to his desk at his office.

But as more time has gone on, Kurvers has started to display the same kind of energy he had when he played in the NHL. He spent some time on the golf course last summer. He ran in a 10K last August.

But when the risk factors for coronavirus became clear; those that are immunocompromised, and those with lung and respiratory issues are at an especially advanced risk, Kurvers took note.

Even going to the doctor's office on Monday for routine testing on the process of his cancer recovery made him a little anxious.

He was quickly put at ease, both by the precautions taken by medical staff and with his doctor's message.

"I'm more at risk than if I wasn't taking this daily chemo," Kurvers said. "But things are going well for me in treatment and I'm strong enough that I'm really not in that at-risk group, which was kind of a relief. I did have that conversation with the doctor and his opinion was that, 'you're doing fine, I don't think of you as at-risk. Be as careful as everyone, but I have patients that are walking around that are significantly [more] at-risk.'

"It was comforting. And it matched pretty well with my attitude."

Still, you won't see Kurvers going out of his way to put himself or others in danger. And that was his message to others as well.

"We have learned some new terminology and some new behaviors, all of us," Kurvers said. "There's a little buffer zone out there that we're all very aware of now. And maybe it's no different than it ever was, but we're aware of it now."


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