‘It’s simple. Get vaccinated’: Crow Wing administrator urges holdouts to get the shot as cases rise
There is one way to avoid potential impacts on the local community, Houle added, should the variant take hold: vaccination.
As government and school officials in the Twin Cities metropolitan area begin to reinstate mask mandates amid increasing reports of new cases of COVID-19, it appears that is not the direction Crow Wing County leaders intend to go — at least for now.
County Administrator Tim Houle said Tuesday, Aug. 10, he believes it’s too early in the course of the delta variant of the coronavirus to say with certainty the impact it might have. There is one way to avoid potential impacts on the local community, Houle added, should the variant take hold: vaccination.
“Get a vaccine. It’s that simple,” Houle said. “I’m nearly begging those who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated, so we don’t have to do that (impose restrictions) anymore.”
Houle’s comments came in response to Commissioner Paul Koering, who asked Houle to share what he’d heard from officials in other counties concerning the potential for the return of emergency measures such as business shutdowns or mask mandates.
“I am hearing from my constituents, mostly the restaurant owners,” Koering said. “They’re very concerned of another shutdown. They’re very concerned about the mask mandate again, this whole thing happening again.”
“I’m nearly begging those who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated, so we don’t have to do that (impose restrictions) anymore.”
— Tim Houle, Crow Wing County administrator
Houle said he believes it’s important to separate facts from hyperbole, but added there’s early evidence the delta variant is twice as contagious as the original strain of COVID-19 with the potential for greater health impacts on younger individuals. Houle said he’s closely watching the county’s rate of new cases, which is steadily rising.
“It is reasonable to think that the delta variant is the primary driver of that. At some point in time, if the delta variant sort of takes a toehold in our community, it could disrupt us. It has the significant potential to do that. … So how do we prevent happening what you’re hearing from that restaurant owner? It’s simple. Get vaccinated. That’s what I know about delta.”
Houle pointed to evidence the vaccines in production are still effective against the variant, albeit less effective than against the original virus.
“But it’s still highly effective at preventing hospitalizations, ICU care and death,” Houle said.
Data Tuesday from the Minnesota Department of Health showed Crow Wing County topping 7,000 recorded cases of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. Cases are continuing to rise at a higher rate in recent weeks than much of the previous two months, although the rise is more subdued at the moment compared to previous spikes this spring and during the late fall in 2020.
Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to list all seven counties in north-central Minnesota as experiencing substantial or high community transmission of the virus as of Tuesday. This is the threshold at which the CDC recommends masking in public places for vaccinated individuals. Those who are unvaccinated have always been advised to continue masking.
The CDC’s recent changes to masking guidance for vaccinated individuals comes as evidence points to the potential for spread by vaccinated individuals who’ve become infected. Beginning Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Health is now offering preliminary statistics it’s compiled on breakthrough infections.
“COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases are identified by actively matching Minnesota case records with Minnesota vaccination records. MDH also takes and follows up on reports from health care providers, long term care, and corrections,” the health department stated.
The statistics are not contemporaneous, as the health department noted it takes time to match case data to vaccine data. According to the data, a total of 5,599 vaccine breakthrough cases are known to have occurred in Minnesota thus far, representing 0.19% of the total number of vaccinated Minnesotans as of July 11. Of those cases, 514 vaccinated Minnesotans have been hospitalized for COVID-19, meaning they were admitted for any reason within 14 days of a positive test. And 57 vaccinated Minnesotans have died due to the disease — 0.002% of the nearly 3 million fully vaccinated residents included in the analysis.