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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely COVID-19 cases quadruple in three weeks

Situation eases on the Bois Forte Reservation

David Colburn
Posted 9/9/20

REGIONAL- The reported number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Ely zip code jumped by nine between last Thursday and Tuesday, according to St. Louis County COVID-19 dashboard data.The total number …

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Ely COVID-19 cases quadruple in three weeks

Situation eases on the Bois Forte Reservation

Posted

REGIONAL- The reported number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Ely zip code jumped by nine between last Thursday and Tuesday, according to St. Louis County COVID-19 dashboard data.
The total number of cases identified with Ely on Tuesday was 21, more than a fourfold increase from Aug. 20, when there were five or fewer cases reported.
The county does not report specific case numbers for zip codes with five or fewer cases due to confidentiality concerns.
The city of Ely had the area’s first reported cases of COVID-19 associated with long-term care facilities last week when Ely Carefree Living reported three cases, consisting of two residents and one staff member. Those cases brought the total number of Ely-area cases to 12 as of last Thursday.
Spectrum Health CEO Merle Sampson reported the Carefree Living cases last week, noting that these were the first among the company’s 13 assisted living facilities.
The increase in Ely helped to push St. Louis County over 1,000 total cases since the start of the pandemic. Cumulative county cases stood at 1,060 as of Tuesday, while the state eclipsed the 80,000-case milestone over the Labor Day weekend.
Meanwhile, the recent outbreak of cases on the Bois Forte Reservation in both the Nett Lake and Vermilion sectors appears to be on the wane, as only one new case has been reported since Aug. 31.
According to a report posted Tuesday on the Bois Forte website, out of a total of 17 cases, ten in Nett Lake and seven in Vermilion, only two in Nett Lake are considered currently active. All of the others are no longer contagious and have been released from isolation.
State and county officials have repeatedly warned of increasing community spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks, and Bois Forte Community Health Nurse Teri Morrison reinforced those concerns on Tuesday as she encouraged people to remain vigilant in practicing preventative guidance.
“Almost everyone I’ve seen has caught it from someone they’re comfortable with,” Morrison said.
Morrison praised the work of the tribe’s community health team and other workers who have been providing essential services to those in quarantine and isolation, and commended the community at large for their cooperation.
“I think the community has been really good at wanting to make sure other community members are safe,” Morrison said.
However, the Orr zip code also experienced a holiday weekend increase, going from 11 last Thursday to 15 as of Tuesday. Only one of those cases was reported by the Bois Forte band to be associated with Nett Lake.
Community spread
While state Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann and state Department of Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker focused primarily on the start of school during a Tuesday press conference, Ehresmann commented on recent data that shows the rate of positive COVID-19 tests has increased more than the testing rate itself.
“What we’re seeing is more and more community transmission,” Ehresmann said. “That means the proportion of individuals who are likely to test positive has increased, so even if we’re not testing as many people we’re probably more likely to find positives because of the amount of spread that’s happening in the community. That’s concerning.”
There have also been 236 cases of COVID-19 associated with schools since Aug. 1, Ehresmann said, primarily among staff members.
“Eighty-one percent of those cases were staff,” Ehresmann said. A few cases involving attendees came at the end of summer session classes, she said, and most cases have been single cases not associated with clusters.
Ehresmann and Ricker both emphasized the importance of parents in keeping schools COVID-free by monitoring children’s health and keeping them at home when they have symptoms of illness, as well as practicing social distancing and wearing masks when appropriate, and avoiding large social gatherings. Ricker also asked the business community to practice flexibility in working with employees who have school children who might have to stay at home if a child is sick.

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