County wave of Covid shows signs of cresting

Thanksgiving cases may spike the numbers again


December 11, 2020

A lab technician at Raiter Clinic in Cloquet brings out a testing kit to a car. Now the clinic is testing inside, but through a different entrance.

Covid-19 numbers appear to show that Carlton County is on the downside of the latest and strongest surge of Covid-19 infections since the pandemic began, according to daily numbers provided by the Minnesota Department of Health. However, Carlton County Public Health officials pointed out there is usually a 14-day lag in data, so the effect of Thanksgiving won't show up for another week or two.

For the second week in a row, the state reported fewer new positive cases in Carlton County than the previous week, with 224 new cases from Dec. 2-9, versus 327 new cases from Nov. 25-Dec. 2 and 407 new cases from Nov. 18-25. The total cumulative Covid cases in the county was 2,228 as of Wednesday, Dec. 9. Deaths attributed to Covid-19 in the county increased by four from Dec. 2-9, to a total of 21 deaths since the pandemic reached the county in March.

B&B Market Catering & Quality Meats. On top of Big Lake Hill in Cloquet.

Numbers of new Covid cases for individual Carlton County communities are down slightly this week for most places, although still high.

The state's Dec. 3 report by zip code showed Carlton with a record increase of 55 cases, going from 140 cases reported on Nov. 27 to 195 in the Dec. 3 report. Over that same time period, the numbers in the Cloquet zip code went from 825 to 946, an increase of 121, down from its own record-setting jump of 186 cases the previous week. Esko increased to 283 cases, a jump of 37 cases in a week. Moose Lake was up to 245 cases, a jump of 40 since the week before. Barnum showed 139 cases, an increase of 23. In less-populated areas, the numbers are lower: Cromwell went up to 56 cases, up by eight from the week before. Wrenshall and Kettle River each report 28 cumulative cases (up by seven), with Holyoke at 25 (plus two) and Sawyer holding steady at eight cumulative cases for the fourth week in a row.

Although good news, the decline in most numbers is a snapshot in the war against Covid-19, which could shift again as some of those who gathered for the Thanksgiving holiday and caught the virus will be getting sicker in the days to come.

"Stay strong" is the message from Dave Lee, director of Carlton County Public Health and Human Services. "This pandemic has lasted longer than any of us had hoped and many of us are worn out both physically and emotionally," Lee said. "However, as we look at the rise in the positivity rate and hospitalizations in our communities, we encourage community members to continue the ultra-marathon of protecting themselves and others - please wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands."

Lee stressed that people should continue to follow the governor's executive order, and not gather with people from other households (including family from other households). The reasoning behind this is based on concrete data gathered through contact tracing, that gatherings of any size (from a get-together with a few friends to a large wedding) have been a way Covid-19 has been spreading at the highest rates. Many community members look forward to family gatherings and celebrations over the next month.

Lee said people need to be mindful that "our bubble" is bigger than we think when we start to interact with people outside our immediate family.

"The ripple effect of potential exposures and additional spread from these gatherings with a subsequent increase in cases hits us hard in smaller communities that have limited backup for health care, EMS, fire, teaching, and other essential services staff," he said.

For those who want to support health care professionals during this time - the best way is to follow the guidance so our health care workers are healthy if and when you or your family need them.

The percentage of positive cases also dropped last week. Carlton County has a cumulative rate of 5.8 percent: that's the average rate of positive cases per 10,000 people since testing began this spring. However, a snapshot of recent testing and percent of positive cases from Nov. 15-21 put the county at an 8.2 percent positive rate, down from 13.10 percent positivity rate the week before. In May, the World Health Organization recommended that the percent positive should remain below 5 percent for at least two weeks before governments consider reopening.

"I know Carlton County residents truly care for their neighbors because of the way community members have stepped in and cared for each other during past disasters and stressors," Lee said. "We want to express our gratitude to everyone for their continued diligence in fighting this virus."

Mental health help

Because of many closures including gyms, sports, etc., and move to virtual gatherings for faith communities, many residents, of all ages, in the community have been experiencing loneliness and isolation at higher rates, and many experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety for the first time.

"This is an extremely difficult time where people have to rely on coping skills and supports they may not have had to use before, or for quite some time. Remember to breathe, take time to focus on yourself, sleep, and develop a system to care for your well-being," said Brenda Carlson, supervisor with the Children's Mental Health Unit with Carlton County PHHS. "There are multiple confidential resources in our community available - even if you only need them once in your life. They are here to listen and help any way they can."

Some of the available resources include:

• Crisis Text Line: Text "MN" to 741741 (24/7)

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1- 800-273-8255 (24/7)

• SAMHSA's Disaster Distress Helpline: Go to (24/7)

• Minnesota Mobile Mental Health Crisis Line: Call **CRISIS (**274747) from a cell phone 24/7. Call 844-772-4724 from a landline in Carlton County.

• Wellness in the Woods: Peer-to-peer telephone support (warmline): 1-844-739-6369, 5 p.m.-9 a.m. daily

• Mental Health Minnesota: Volunteer staffed telephone support: 1-651-288-0400/1-877-404-3190 or text "Support" to 85511, 12-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

• NAMI MN Virtual Support Groups,


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