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By MPR News 

Pandemic notes from around the region


November 13, 2020

Gov. Tim Walz made it clear Wednesday that the Covid-19 pandemic will get worse in the near term before it gets better.

“We’ll be unfortunately announcing numbers today: positivity rates above 20 percent and unfortunately we are going to have the highest death count since this began with 56 Minnesotans dying,” he said in an MPR News interview Wednesday. “This is just inevitable if we do not change our behaviors and take some mitigation efforts, this will continue to spike.”

Minnesota’s previous record was 36 deaths, reported last Friday.

On Tuesday, the health department data showed again that a tough October is turning into a brutal November. State health officials on Tuesday reported 4,906 newly confirmed or probable cases, and 23 more deaths.

New hospital admissions tied to Covid hit a new one-day record high Tuesday, 262. More than 1,200 people are in Minnesota hospital beds now with nearly 250 needing intensive care.

Staffing is becoming a challenge as more health care workers get sick, state officials said this week.

“Minnesota is in a bad spot … and it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director.

While more testing is uncovering more cases, “it’s not the testing that’s the problem,” Ehresmann said Tuesday. “It’s the sheer fact that we have so much virus circulating in our state.”

Duluth hit hard

Duluth public schools are shutting down all in-person activities and athletics starting Nov. 18. There has been a rise in students and staff testing positive for Covid-19, along with spiking case rates in Duluth and St. Louis County.

The pause of athletics will run until at least Dec. 13 and could be extended through Jan. 8.

The Duluth Police Department has switched to an emergency staffing schedule after about a quarter of its employees have been forced to quarantine.

The department reported on Tuesday that 17 staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus. Another 31 employees, including Chief Mike Tusken, were in quarantine due to contact with people testing positive. Investigative officers will work rotating shifts and back up patrol officers, who will work five straight 12-hour days followed by a 10-day quarantine period.

The department has 158 officers and 200 employees overall.

Assume the worst, Itasca County says

The coronavirus is surging so much to the north and west of Carlton County that Itasca County has suspended individual contact tracing, citing a record-high rate of infections through community transmission.

“If you are in a group setting, just assume that someone has Covid,” said Kelly Chandler, department manager for Itasca County Public Health.

Rural impact

Regionally, central and northern Minnesota have driven much of the recent increase in new cases while the Twin Cities metro counties Hennepin and Ramsey show some of the slowest case growth in the state.

Northwestern Minnesota no longer has the state’s fastest-growing outbreak. It’s been passed by east-central Minnesota. Carlton and Pine counties have some of the highest spikes in recent days. But new cases are rising at accelerating rates everywhere.

The latest numbers from Wednesday continue to show rampant spread across Minnesota, not limited to just one region or demographic group, like earlier in the pandemic.

Another session

Minnesota lawmakers were back in special session Thursday to decide if Gov. Tim Walz will maintain his emergency powers to manage the coronavirus response.

Walz called the special session in a proclamation Monday because he is again extending the executive order tied to Covid-19 measures his administration has taken. That will remain in place for an additional 30 days unless both the House and Senate vote to unwind the authority. That’s unlikely, given that the Legislature is under split-party control.

~ Compiled from Pine Knot News staff and Minnesota Public Radio News reports


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