Just one staffed intensive care unit bed remained available in the central Minnesota region as of Thursday, Nov. 18, and fewer than 20 existed in the entire state.

Out of 102 adult ICU beds at central Minnesota hospitals — including those in Brainerd and St. Cloud — 101 were occupied, and nearly half contained a COVID-19 patient, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Statewide, more ICU beds — 1,232 — were occupied between both COVID and non-COVID patients than at any point since the pandemic began, and in the central region, the current figure was just one bed shy of the high point of 102 recorded on Nov. 18, 2020.

Among non-ICU adult beds, 35 of a total 769 in central Minnesota were open, representing 4.6% of available beds. Nearly one-quarter of the filled beds — 23.4% — contained COVID-19 patients. Twelve surge beds were also in use across the state, all of which are within the central region.

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Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd reported Friday its ICU held nine patients, six of whom were COVID-positive and all of whom were unvaccinated. Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby reported it admitted five new COVID-19 patients out of 34 hospitalizations between Nov. 12 and Thursday, and three of those five were unvaccinated. Earlier this week on Monday, CRMC had nine COVID-19 patients, five of whom weren’t vaccinated.

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During a week that generally saw the number of new cases reported match those of a week earlier, the deaths of nine residents in north-central Minnesota were also reported by the state. Among the dead were three Morrison County residents, one age 55-59 and two ages 90-94; two Wadena County residents, one age 75-79 and one of unknown age; two Crow Wing County residents, one age 80-84 and one in their 60s; one Todd County resident, age 50-54, and one Aitkin County resident, age 75-79.

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The positivity rate in much of the region as of the latest date for which data is available remained higher than the state as a whole. Between Oct. 31 and Nov. 6, the positivity rate reported statewide was 9.3%. In six of seven north-central counties, the positivity rate ranged from 10-15%. Only Crow Wing County remained in the 7-10% range.

The weekly case rate during the same time period also generally exceeded the statewide average, with Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties each reporting more than 50 new cases per every 10,000 people. In the state as a whole, that figure was 44 per 10,000.

Crow Wing’s hospitalized

The latest available data among Crow Wing County residents showed 16 new hospitalizations for COVID-19 recorded since Nov. 12.

A separate set of data as of Friday from the county public health department — which typically sees some lag time in reporting — provided further detail on some of those residents who became sick enough to be hospitalized. Twenty-four Crow Wing County residents who tested positive in November thus far spent time in the hospital. The average age of that group was 68 years old, with the youngest being 21 years old and the oldest 94. Eleven of the 24 residents were under the age of 65, including three under 50.

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During the month of October, 56 Crow Wing County residents who tested positive were hospitalized, with again nearly half of those under the age of 65. Among the hospitalized that month were three people in their 20s, one in their 30s and four in their 40s, with an overall average age of 65.

Fourteen Crow Wing residents died because of COVID-19 since the beginning of October, including three men under age 60 — a 50-year-old, 53-year-old and 58-year-old.

Regional vaccinations

Four of the seven north-central Minnesota counties remain below the 50% mark in terms of the percentage of the vaccine-eligible population who’ve completed the vaccine series: Morrison (45.3%), Mille Lacs (45.1%), Wadena (44.2%) and Todd (43.1%). Statewide, 64% of those ages 5 and older have completed the series.

Among the newly eligible 5- to 11-year-old age group, Crow Wing County leads the region by both raw numbers of vaccinated youths — 388 — and on a per capita basis, which amounted to 60 per 10,000 people. Todd County, on the other end of the spectrum and as the least vaccinated county in the region, reported 55 vaccinated 5- to 11-year-olds thus far, accounting for 22 per 10,000 people.

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Crow Wing County also leads the regional pack when it comes to the number of people who received their first doses of the vaccine since mid-August. With an increase of 4,371 people with their first doses between Aug. 11 and Thursday, the county saw 672 people per 10,000 seek their first shot. Nearly 1,000 of those residents, or 22%, sought those shots since the beginning of November. Morrison County, which saw 2,013 more residents get their first shots since mid-August, saw the largest spike by proportion in the region this month with 552 newly vaccinated people, or 27.4%.

CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey.