REGIONAL- As officials around the country continue debating President Joe Biden’s six-point plan to combat the COVID pandemic, including requiring vaccinations for about 80 million federal …
REGIONAL- As officials around the country continue debating President Joe Biden’s six-point plan to combat the COVID pandemic, including requiring vaccinations for about 80 million federal workers, federal contractors, private employees and health care workers, the North Country is seeing more evidence that the pandemic is far from over.
County public health director Amy Westbrook has cited northern St. Louis County for its lower vaccination rate than the rest of the county, and that may well have contributed to the double-digit increase in new COVID cases last week, with 26 positive test results reported by state health officials last Thursday.
Tower topped the list of zip codes monitored by the Timberjay with 11 new cases, and Cook was close behind with nine. Ely tallied four new cases, with one each in Orr and Embarrass.
Bois Forte Health Services also began reporting new COVID cases on Sept. 9., and by Tuesday the total number of new cases had grown to 14, equally split between Nett Lake and Vermilion.
No cases have been reported by ISD 2142 officials for North Woods and Tower-Soudan schools, but Ely Public School officials announced they had identified one new case on Sept. 9. Masks are required in all indoor spaces in Ely schools, while in ISD 2142 schools masks are highly recommended for all, but not required. The most current bi-weekly case rate, used last year to help determine when schools should change learning models, stands at 32.2, almost four times higher than in mid-July. Over approximately the same time period, the seven-day rolling average of new cases in the county increased from 5 to 39.4.
Tuesday’s state case update, including combined data from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, reported 4,603 new cases, an average of over 1,500 a day, a number consistent with daily reports in recent weeks. Twelve new deaths were also reported, although some deaths may have occurred at an earlier time due to lags in reporting them to health authorities. In the past week, 59 new deaths were reported, up from 45 the week prior.
With the Delta variant of the coronavirus estimated to be responsible for nearly all new cases in the state, health officials are concerned about hospitalization rates that haven’t been seen since January, at the peak of the third wave. As of Tuesday, 208 people with COVID-19 were in intensive care units, the highest number this year. Additionally, 540 patients were hospitalized but not in ICUs.
Out of about 3 million fully-vaccinated Minnesotans, just 18,970 of them have been diagnosed with a breakthrough case of COVID-19, equal to 0.6 percent. A total of 1,095, or less than 0.04 percent have required hospitalization. A total of 108 fully-vaccinated people who contracted COVID-19 have died.
While vaccines have been remarkably effective in reducing the incidence and severity of COVID-19 infections, the slight increase in breakthrough cases relative to the overall total could indicate not only that the Delta variant is more contagious, but that the resilience of vaccines to ward off the virus completely may be fading among some.
The percentage of Minnesotans 16 and older with at least one dose of vaccine has climbed to 75.6 percent, and Minnesota ranks 17th nationally in the percentage of total population fully vaccinated at 57.05 percent.
The Biden administration initially recommended last month that people should get a third shot of the two-dose vaccines, a booster, but that recommendation is currently under review by the CDC, which has not yet formally endorsed the plan.
The vaccination effort took a small hit from the extended Labor Day weekend. Having averaged over 65,000 doses per week for three weeks, that total dropped to 49,000 last week.
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