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Covid case numbers fall; experts wary of a holiday season bump


January 1, 2021

Contributed photo

The first health care worker to receive the Moderna vaccination on the Fond du Lac reservation was FDL medical director Dr. Charity Reynolds last Wednesday, Dec. 23. The Band received its first batch of 700 doses last week, and will prioritize frontline health care workers and at-risk elders.

Carlton County Covid-19 numbers declined for a fifth week, with an increase of 65 cases between last Tuesday and this Tuesday, and three new deaths from Covid from Dec. 22-29.

That's down from a week-to-week high of 407 new cases from Nov. 18-25. Since then, the new case numbers have been dropping steadily, although they are still high compared to the surge this spring.

As of Tuesday, Dec. 29, Carlton County had seen a cumulative total of 2,572 Covid-19 cases and 36 deaths, according to the most recent numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health. Thirty-five of those deaths have been reported in the past two months, since Oct. 26, when there was just one official death so far in the county, and 444 cases total.

Also Tuesday, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reported a total of 182 positive tests so far, with 90 of those within the reservation.

More vaccines have been distributed at Community Memorial Hospital and at Fond du Lac's Mino-Aya-Win and Center of American Indian Resources clinics since the first shots were given last week. On Tuesday, Carlton County ran a drive-through Covid-19 vaccine clinic for EMS workers only.

The first health care worker to receive the Moderna vaccination on the Fond du Lac reservation was FDL medical director Dr. Charity Reynolds.

"It's been a tough year for us all, our lives have been turned upside down and so many losses including the loss of loved ones," Reynolds said. "The Covid-19 vaccine brings new hope for a better tomorrow."

She cautioned that vaccination is a first step, but people must continue to wear masks and physically distance even after receiving the vaccine. The two doses of the Moderna vaccine are given 28 days apart to maximize efficacy.

These are hopeful times, but a possible post-holiday surge could still happen over the next two to three weeks. State officials warned the improving numbers could change dramatically if people don't remain vigilant.

More local numbers

The state's Dec. 24 report by zip code showed most Carlton County zip codes with a continued decline in new cases. Cloquet reported 1164 cumulative cases, an increase of 70, up from 51 new cases the week before. Carlton saw an increase of six cases to 244. Esko reported 331 cases, a jump of 16. Moose Lake was up to 369 cases as of the Dec. 24 report, 18 new cases since the week before. Barnum showed 173 cases, an increase of 11. Cromwell went up by two, to 82 cases. Wrenshall reported 34 cases - an increase of one - and Kettle River jumped by two to 33 cumulative cases. Holyoke went up by one case to 30. And Sawyer went up to nine total cases, an increase of one, after holding steady at eight cases for six weeks in a row.

In terms of number of positive test results, Carlton County has a cumulative rate of 5.5 percent: that's the average rate of positive cases per 10,000 people since testing began this spring. The percent of positive cases from Dec. 6-12 came in at 4.3 percent, down from 5.9 percent 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.

Schools are getting better news these days as well. In addition to the state order allowing elementary schools to resume in-person learning effective Jan. 18, the state's Covid measurement for schools is dropping too: from 186 positive cases per 10,000 people in the county at the end of November to approximately 114 cases per 10,000 in the most recent report, which measured from Nov. 29 to Dec. 12.

Additionally, three Carlton County schools - including the Cloquet senior high and middle schools and Esko's Lincoln High School - dropped off the MDH outbreak list last week, with Esko's Winterquist Elementary the only Carlton County school still on the list as of Tuesday.

A school building is added to the list if it reports five or more confirmed cases of Covid-19 in staff or students who were in the building while infectious over a two-week reporting period. The building comes off the list after 28 days of no new positive tests. It's worth noting that both Esko and Cloquet schools have been in distance learning for more than a month.

There are six places on

the latest list of Carlton County senior living facilities that had or have Covid-19 exposure: Augustana Mercy Health Care Center, Diamond Willow Cloquet, Evergreen Knoll Assisted Living, Inter-Faith Care Center, New Perspective Cloquet and Sunnyside Health Care Center.

Exposure is defined as a person diagnosed with Covid who either visited, worked, or lived at a congregate care facility while they were contagious. It doesn't necessarily mean that any residents were infected with the coronavirus. Facilities that have not reported a new exposure for a minimum of 28 days will be removed.


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