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Backlog builds for contact tracers in Crow Wing as COVID-19 cases rise

Crow Wing County shared data Monday outlining more specifics in the cases of those county residents who required hospital-level care for COVID-19.

Coronavirus local headlines graphic

Those tracing the contacts of Crow Wing County residents who’ve tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus are struggling to keep up as cases spike.

Crow Wing County reported due to recent increases in local positive cases, its case investigation team is experiencing a backlog.

“They are working as fast as they can, but are a few days behind in contacting positive cases,” a social media post from Monday, Nov. 9, stated. “In the meantime, we ask that positive cases alert family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues they have had interacted with recently and let them know they should quarantine for 14 days.”

County Administrator Tim Houle said Monday the sheer volume of county residents testing positive is making it increasingly difficult for county staff to keep up with tracing efforts.

“We will not be able to keep up at some point,” Houle said.


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The announcement comes as 475 new cases in county residents have been identified by the Minnesota Department of Health in one week with the 14-day total nearing 750. According to county statistics, 625 of the positive cases are currently active infections as of Monday. The hospitalizations of nine more Crow Wing County residents were reported over the weekend, with that figure jumping from 71 to 80 between Friday and Monday.

There were also an additional 29 cases traced to community outbreaks, bringing that total to 72. The specific sites of the majority of recent community outbreaks have not yet been publicly identified by the health department, according to county officials, and may not be, depending on the number of cases associated with each outbreak event.

Two additional congregate living facilities in Crow Wing County were identified Friday as having COVID-19 exposures: Northern Lakes Senior Living in Baxter and Golden Horizons in Crosslake. These two join the four others listed: Good Samaritan Society-Bethany in south Brainerd, Cuyuna Regional Medical Center Care Center in Crosby, Heartwood in Crosby and Edgewood in Baxter. Pequot Lakes High School also joined the list of school buildings late last week with at least five cases.

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“Early on, we were concerned about hospitalization rates and ICU (intensive care unit) bed rates. And as COVID wasn’t hitting us, that concern went down,” Houle said. “It’s not coming back up. I am concerned that we have enough beds and ICU capacity. And when we have 500 new cases in a week, that ought to concern everybody.”

In the north-central Minnesota region, the deaths of five more residents due to complications associated with COVID-19 were reported over the weekend. All were in their late 80s or early 90s, including one Todd County resident, two Cass County residents and two Aitkin County residents.

Who is being hospitalized?

Data provided by Crow Wing County Monday offered further information on those county residents hospitalized since the beginning of October — although the information likely does not reflect the most recent additions given some delays in data collection.


“When the data is moving so rapidly the snapshot in time that you take is no longer accurate the next moment,” Houle said.

What can be found in the data, however, is information on 36 of the county’s 49 most recent hospitalizations. Those hospitalized between Oct. 8 and Nov. 6 range in age from 26 to 94, with the median age at 74 years old. Four residents younger than 50 years old required hospital-level care in that time frame. Ten were between the ages of 51 and 69 years old. The remaining 21 hospitalizations occurred in those 70 and older — 10 between the ages of 70-79, nine in the 80-89 years old age group and two over age 90. The gender split was even, with 18 females, 17 males and the gender of one individual unavailable.

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Slightly fewer than half of the 36 cases required intensive care, according to the data. Fifteen of the Crow Wing County residents admitted to the hospital Oct. 8-Nov. 6 were sent to the ICU.

Information was available concerning whether a patient had underlying health conditions in 17 of the 36 cases. Of those 17, nine reported conditions. Four with conditions were among the residents sent to the ICU, while four residents who reported no underlying conditions went into intensive care.

That last group — those without comorbidities who received treatment in the ICU — included a 57-year-old Brainerd man, an 87-year-old man from Crosslake and a 62-year-old Brainerd man, along with 53-year-old Dave Borash, the Brainerd High School teacher who last month shared his COVID-19 experience with the Dispatch.

RELATED: BHS teacher home after 5 days in ICU with COVID-19

Impacted downtown bars reopen

Two downtown Brainerd bars closed for about two weeks have both reopened.

Shep’s On 6th told Facebook followers Thursday it would reopen Friday following cleaning and other necessary precautions.


“We are feeling confident, safe and ready to serve our amazing customers,” the post stated. “We cant wait to see everyone this Friday, or in the near future. As always, PLEASE remember to wear a mask to enter. If you feel sick, PLEASE stay home.”

Shep’s first announced a closure Oct. 23 due to staff exposures to others who’d received positive test results. The bar reported everyone returned a negative test result and reopened Oct. 24. But another closure announcement followed the next day. In response to a question from a patron who’d said they’d recently visited the bar, further explanation was offered by Shep’s for the second closure decision.

“While we were open last night, we got word of someone in our bar who was positive. We asked that individual to leave, and immediately shut down for the rest of our customers safety,” the Oct. 25 comment stated. “All staff are getting Covid-19 tests, which is why we will be closed until further notice.”

Also shared on Facebook was the Monday, Nov. 9, reopening date of 9th Street Social Club, which announced a temporary closure Oct. 25 due to coronavirus-like symptoms reported by an owner.

“We have missed our wonderful group we are so lucky to serve. 3PM, Monday, lets go!!!” the Sunday post stated.

COVID-19 data as of Nov. 9

  • Aitkin — 348 (+59 since Friday, Nov. 6), with seven (+2) deaths.

  • Cass — 692 (+77), with seven (+2) deaths.

  • Crow Wing — 1,629 (+178), with 22 deaths.

  • Mille Lacs — 806 (+142), with 21 deaths.

  • Morrison — 1,153 (+133), with 12 deaths.

  • Todd — 1,052 (+170), with 10 (+1) deaths.

  • Wadena — 329 (+96), with five deaths.

NOTE: These numbers are cumulative since March 21 and many are out of isolation.

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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