Downward trend continues locally, in state
January 22, 2021
Carlton County Covid-19 case numbers increased by 46 cases over the past week, while only one death due to Covid was reported in the county.
As of Wednesday, Jan. 13, Carlton County had seen a cumulative total of 2,809 Covid-19 cases and 43 deaths, according to the most recent numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health. Also Wednesday, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reported a total of 195 positive tests so far — an increase of six since last week — with 92 of those on the reservation, also an increase of one.
January’s statewide data continues to show an encouraging path, with key metrics improving or at least holding relatively steady.
While the trends look hopeful following an awful November and December — when new cases, hospitalizations and deaths spiked — public health leaders still caution that another surge, originating from year-end holiday gatherings, is likely in the coming weeks.
The state’s Jan. 14 report by zip code showed nearly every Carlton County zip code with a continued decline in new cases. Reporting zero new cases were Cromwell, Holyoke and Kettle River. Cloquet reported 1262 cumulative cases, an increase of 24 cases from the week before. Carlton saw an increase of 11 cases to 270. Esko reported 361 cases, a jump of 11. Moose Lake was up to 408 cases, 10 new cases since the week before. Barnum showed 197 cases, an increase of 5. Sawyer showed one new case, for a cumulative total of 10 cases in the Jan. 14 report.
In terms of the rate of positive cases, Carlton County now has a cumulative rate of 5 percent: that’s the average rate of positive cases per 10,000 people since testing began last spring. The rate of positive cases from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2 (the most recent dates available) came in at 1.9 percent, down from 2.1 percent the week before. By comparison, in the last week of November, that rate was 9.1 percent.
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. In Carlton County the weekly Covid positivity rate has been below 5 percent since Dec. 24.
The state’s Covid measurement for schools is dropping too: it sits at 38.55 cases per 10,000 people in the most recent report on Jan. 14, which measured rates Dec. 20 to Jan. 2.
As of Jan. 20, 2,079 people in Carlton County have received at least one vaccine dose for Covid-19.
High vaccine demand
After weeks of vaccinating health care workers and nursing home residents and staff, the state of Minnesota has opened up vaccinations to anyone 65 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But the rollout, billed as a pilot, was almost too popular this past week.
Roxanne Britz had a small army — her son, daughter and son-in-law — helping on the first day Tuesday.
There were around 6,000 slots available, and Minnesota has roughly a million people who fit the descriptions. The Britzes needed luck — lots of it.
“I knew it was going to be a long shot,” Roxanne Britz said. “And that’s actually what did happen.”
Roxanne Britz and her husband, both 67, were able to land appointments. Once the state opened up the appointment process at noon Tuesday, others found a series of obstacles — busy phone lines or web pages forever refreshing or timed out.
As of 3:45 p.m., the state fielded 232,000 phone calls seeking appointments and the website for appointments, at its peak, had 10,000 unique hits per second.
“To be clear, we do not have enough vaccine for everyone who wants one,” said Kris Ehresmann, director of disease epidemiology at the Minnesota Department of Health.
“But we are working hard to build a community vaccination system so we are ready, using clinics and others, to get Minnesotans immunized once the federal government provides these doses,” Ehresmann said.
Victoria Ford and her sister used their phones and computers to try to get their parents an appointment. She said her father’s congestive heart failure made their effort more urgent.
“As soon as we can get him a vaccine, he can be safer as he goes about his life,” Ford said.
She didn’t have high hopes and knew there would be many people trying to do the same. But she thought it would be good just to get an understanding of how the system works.
They spent about an hour trying.
“We were not successful,” Ford said. “When I went to submit it, it got stuck in, you know, the circle symbol where the computer is thinking, but that doesn’t ever progress.”
While Ford is happy to get the opportunity, she worried that this system was just extending economic and racial inequities.
“We both have jobs where we could put in an hour during the day to spend time doing this,” she said. “And that means that we’re only going to perpetuate the inequities that have already been made clear through who’s getting most harmed by Covid.”
Ehresmann said finding out who is getting the vaccine by race and ethnicity depends on providers to obtain permission and then supply the information. She did not say when health officials would have a breakdown of vaccinations by race. The state health department’s Covid-19 website does publish case and death information by race and ethnicity.
Tarek Tomes, the commissioner of Minnesota IT services, emphasized that changes will be made to the pilot program.
“We’re going to do everything that we can to take the lessons learned from this launch to continue to improve that experience. For our seniors and other people that are registering for these sites, we absolutely expect this process to be much, much smoother in the future.”
The state plans to have a similar sign-up event online next Tuesday.
For more on statewide efforts regarding Covid-19, visit mprnews.org