Mirroring the record-breaking statewide numbers Friday, Oct. 16, the seven-county area experienced the largest single day uptick in COVID-19 cases since March amid a week that saw more than 550 new positives.

A total of 211 new laboratory-confirmed cases were added Friday between Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties, some of the 2,297 positives reported by the Minnesota Department of Health. The day also marked the highest number of tests recorded in a single 24-hour period as well — 44,398. The health department said the rate of positivity among those reported tests Friday remained relatively steady.

Increasing hospitalizations have been observed in Crow Wing County, with six more recorded this week for a total of 15 in the last two weeks. Michelle Moritz, Crow Wing County public health supervisor, said last week these hospitalizations were occurring within the general population rather than among those who lived in congregate living facilities.

Deaths increased by nine in the seven-county region this week as well — three in Crow Wing County, two in Morrison County and four in Mille Lacs County. According to county officials, three of the four deaths in Mille Lacs County were among those living in congregate care — one person in their 90s and two in their 80s, while information on the fourth death was unavailable Friday. In Morrison, the fourth death recorded was a man in his 50s who also lived in congregate care. Specifics on the fifth Morrison death were also unavailable. The Crow Wing County residents who died were two people in their 80s and one in their 70s, one of whom lived in a facility.

In the seven-county region, 17 congregate care facilities are currently listed by the health department as having COVID-19 exposures. Five are new to the list this week: Elim Wellspring of Princeton, Pierz Villa of Pierz, Harmony House of Motley, Central Todd County Care Center of Clarissa and Fair Oaks Lodge of Wadena. Six of the 17 are located in Morrison County.

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Area counties make White House’s watchlist

All seven area counties are on the radar for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which issues weekly reports to governors about the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those reports, which are not made public by the White House, have been collected in one place through data requests from individual states by The Center for Public Integrity. The most recent task force report issued Oct. 11 stated Minnesota is in the “red zone” for cases, which means it recorded 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population during the previous week of Oct. 3-9.

Within the state, micropolitan and metropolitan areas along with counties meeting certain COVID-19 data thresholds are also assigned threat levels. These range from the “yellow zone” to “red zone” and are determined by per capita case numbers and positivity rates.

Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties were among the 11 counties listed as being in the “orange zone” in that same time frame. Listed in the “yellow zone” were Cass, Mille Lacs and Aitkin counties, along with the Brainerd statistical area.

The federal task force also issues summarized information and advice to states in these reports. In Minnesota’s report, it warned of increasing community transmission.

“There is extreme concern for further increases in community transmission with increasing hospitalizations and deaths, given the continued spread among younger age groups, much of which is asymptomatic, as has been seen in ‘hotspot’ counties generally,” the report stated. “ … Localized, more intense mitigation measures in high incidence jurisdictions are recommended, including maintaining or increasing restrictions on indoor gathering sizes to help limit the superspreader events that disproportionately contribute to increased or maintained epidemic spread. This is especially important in the next few weeks given the recent increased transmission with larger numbers of infectious individuals. Public education and enforcement measures to increase compliance with gathering restrictions should be enhanced.”

COVID-19 data as of Oct. 16

  • Aitkin — 140 (+29 since Oct. 9), with one death.

  • Cass — 289 (+42), with three deaths.

  • Crow Wing — 807 (+106), with 21 (+3) deaths.

  • Mille Lacs — 329 (+101), with seven (+4) deaths.

  • Morrison — 536 (+139), with five (+2) deaths.

  • Todd — 657 (+78), with two deaths.

  • Wadena — 170 (+59).

NOTE: These numbers are cumulative since March 21 and many are out of isolation. The number of those no longer needing isolation is not reported on a county-level basis by the state.