COVID-19 cases on rise again in Crow Wing County
The number of new COVID-19 cases recorded in the previous 14 days topped 300 on Monday, April 5, for the first time since Christmas Eve, when the county and state were on the downward slope of a dramatic late autumn surge.
The number of new COVID-19 cases reported each day in Crow Wing County is reaching levels not seen since mid-December.
Joining neighboring Morrison and Mille Lacs counties experiencing similar rises in case numbers, Crow Wing’s spread of the disease caused by the coronavirus is picking up pace. The number of new cases recorded in the previous 14 days topped 300 on Monday, April 5, for the first time since Christmas Eve, when the county and state were on the downward slope of a dramatic late autumn surge. Tuesday saw that number increase from 301 to 350 with the addition of two days of data following the Easter Sunday holiday.
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Increasing case numbers alone are not the only cause for concern. Hospitalizations of Crow Wing County residents are also steadily increasing. Between March 29 and Friday, April 2, at least one new hospitalization was recorded on each of those days, according to weekday data provided by county public health. This is the first time since the second week of January hospitalizations have consistently risen on a daily basis. Monday saw another three hospitalizations reported with five more added Tuesday. A total of 289 residents required hospital-level care since April 2020, representing 5% of all COVID-19 cases reported among those residing in Crow Wing County.
“We are seeing people in their 30s, 40s, 50s being hospitalized that didn’t have underlying health conditions. We are linking these back to the variants that are circulating,” said Michelle Moritz, county public health head.
Spring break travel is partly to blame for producing an expected spike, Moritz said. This factor combined with variant strains of the virus circulating in the state and country, however, could mean this increase has more staying power than other holiday-related bumps, she added.
“Usually with the holidays, it’s just a quick time that we have an increase in cases. My concern is that’s not going to be the case this time,” Moritz said.
Cases associated with variants were identified in Crow Wing, Moritz said Tuesday. In neighboring Morrison County, public health officials announced last week the confirmed presence of the variant strain known as B.1.1.7, first identified in the United Kingdom in the fall of 2020 and detected in the U.S. at the end of the year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the variant B.1.1.7 spreads more easily and quickly and may be associated with increased risk of death.
Impacts on businesses, including temporary closures, are on the rise again as well, Moritz said — another all-too-familiar sign of escalating spread. A major difference when compared to the fall, however, is the availability of vaccine, and Moritz encouraged people to get an appointment as soon as they can in an effort to reverse the trend.
“I’m a little concerned that our trend is heading in the direction of what we saw in the fall,” she said. “ … But we have a tool other than closing businesses and a tool other than closing schools that we can use. We’re so close to seeing this over. I don’t want to see a fourth wave of virus that experts are predicting will happen.”
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Sticking with mitigation efforts like social distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene remain vitally important, Moritz added.
“There’s just enough in the community of people who aren’t getting vaccinated that the spread is going to continue. We’re seeing people get reinfected. … People aren’t following the mask orders and social distancing. We’re getting a little lax on all of those things,” she said. “Definitely there’s a lot of fatigue that has set in. … It’s been 12 months. It’s been a really long 12 months. We realize that just as much. Every day our staff is working, needing to do social distancing and wearing masks going about their business and serving our community. Certainly, we want to get back to normal as well, as soon as possible.”
The deaths of two area residents are among those reported so far this month: a 60- to 64-year-old resident of Morrison County and a Crow Wing resident age 75-79.
Moritz and other Crow Wing County staffers administered doses to more than 300 people Tuesday and clinics in Emily and Breezy Point on Thursday quickly filled. She noted Cuyuna Regional Medical Center recently hosted a large clinic and Essentia Health extended its hours and added time for vaccinations on Saturdays. But a significant number of those who received doses Tuesday were metro area residents, she noted.
“I would love to see our clinics filled with people from the local community,” Moritz said. “There’s no need for people to travel from Crow Wing County out to other communities to get vaccinated.”
With an eye toward that goal, Moritz said the county is reaching out to as many businesses as possible, especially bars and restaurants, to ensure they’re aware of upcoming vaccination clinics.
“This is what’s going to help keep our businesses open this summer,” she said. “We still remember last fall. We don’t want that again.”
Visit https://bit.ly/3fK5ldr to register for upcoming Crow Wing County vaccination clinics.
COVID-19 data as of April 6
Aitkin — 1,242, with 36 deaths; 6,181 residents have received at least one vaccine dose, representing 46% of the county’s 16-plus population.
Cass — 2,368 with 26 deaths; 9,197 residents with at least one dose, 39%.
Crow Wing — 5,752, with 86 deaths; 22,282 residents with at least one dose, 43%.
Mille Lacs — 2,624, with 47 deaths; 7,918 residents with at least one dose, 39%.
Morrison — 3,745, with 56 deaths; 9,327 residents with at least one dose, 36%.
Todd — 2,622, with 30 deaths; 6,238 residents with at least one dose, 32%.
Wadena — 1,381, with 20 deaths; 4,156 residents with at least one dose, 39%.
NOTE: These numbers are cumulative since March 21, 2020, and many are out of isolation.
CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .