A Pequot Lakes bar and restaurant announced a temporary closure Wednesday, June 24, due to a positive COVID-19 test in an employee.
Timberjack Smokehouse and Saloon, located near the intersection of County Road 168 and Patriot Avenue, announced on its Facebook page it would be closed through July 9 to allow all staff to self-quarantine. In the comments on the post, owner William Nemitz further clarified the employee was tending bar Saturday night before the positive test.
Michelle Moritz, Crow Wing County public health supervisor, said by phone Wednesday anyone who was at the business between June 19-20, particularly those who were not wearing a mask and were in close contact with employees, should consider getting tested and/or take self-quarantine measures.
Moritz posted a comment on Timberjack’s post encouraging anyone who needed guidance about possible exposure to contact the county at 218-824-1170.
“Close contact of less than 6’ without a mask for more than 15 minutes would be considered exposed,” Moritz wrote. “ … Wearing a mask when out in the community and when unable to social distance is your best way to limit your risk.”
The positive test came as a surprise to the Timberjack employee, Moritz said, because they were not experiencing symptoms and were tested for other reasons. The employee, who was masked while working according to state requirements, immediately notified anyone they were in contact with, she said. Asymptomatic or presymptomatic positives have not been uncommon in Crow Wing County, Moritz reported.
County public health has worked with several businesses following the positive test of an employee. Moritz said hearing from businesses helps the division do its job better.
“It actually gives us a head start on being able to do contact investigation and also the follow-up tracing of those in close contact with a positive case,” Moritz said.
Contact tracing is a more difficult process for businesses in which members of the public are in direct contact with employees, she noted. In those cases, methods such as posting to social media or sharing a positive test with an organization’s email list can assist efforts.
Moritz encouraged anyone who is seeking testing due to potential exposure to share that information when setting up an appointment. Despite guidance from the state that testing supplies are now adequate to allow anyone who wants a test to get one — with or without symptoms — Moritz noted it’s an ongoing process to work with area clinics to ensure testing is available, particularly to those who’ve been encouraged by public health officials to get tested due to exposure. She said difficulties are due in part to conflicting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends testing to symptomatic individuals, as well as screening procedures put in place when testing equipment was in short supply at the beginning of the pandemic.
Moritz said addressing public health in Crow Wing County can be a challenge, given the dramatic shifts in population between the winter and summer months.
“Being that our community is so mobile, that is where these diseases spread,” she said. “We’re still trying to limit travel and limited exposure is still recommended. Even though the governor’s orders have lifted, there’s still plenty of restrictions in place. … We know we’re not necessarily going to stop the spread, we’re just trying to slow it down, and I think we’ve been fairly successful in Minnesota. … I would love to have this over with, but I don’t want to overwhelm our health care system and it still has been tapping our resources, even with the slow crawl (of cases).”
As of Wednesday, Crow Wing County counted 97 total confirmed cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus, with three of those reported Tuesday. Eight of those 97 are active infections, based on county data stating 89 of the county’s cases are either no longer in isolation or resulted in death. Eleven county residents — the majority of which lived at Good Samaritan Society-Bethany in south Brainerd, which first reported an outbreak in mid-May — have died due to complications associated with the disease.
Of seven area counties, only Todd County reported new cases Wednesday. Two more cases there brought that county’s cumulative total to 394 cases.
COVID-19 data as of June 24
Aitkin — 13 cases (+0 since the previous day).
Cass — 11 (+0), with two deaths.
Crow Wing — 97 (+0), with 11 deaths.
Mille Lacs — 30 (+0), with one death.
Morrison — 56 (+0), with one death.
Todd — 394 (+2), with two deaths.
Wadena — 14 (+0).
NOTE: Case numbers are cumulative since March 21 and many are likely out of isolation. The number of those no longer needing isolation is not reported on a county-level basis by the state.
Number of tests — 529,643 (+9,598).
Total positive cases — 33,763 (+304).
Positive health care workers — 3,450 (+22).
Age ranges with greatest numbers of cases — 30-39 years old, with 20% of cases; and 20-29 years old, with 20% of cases.
Currently hospitalized — 340 (+1), with 160 (+2) in intensive care.
Total cases requiring hospitalization — 3,897 (+37).
Total deaths — 1,397 (+4); probable deaths, 35.
Deaths among those in long-term care or assisted living — 1,102 (+1).
No longer needing isolation — 29,707 (+308).
Compiled from Minnesota Department of Health data and county sources.
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