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Carlton County jumps to 'moderate' Covid transmission status

Editor's note: The level of Covid transmission jumped to "substantial" in Carlton County after this story was published. On Saturday it was at a rate of 80.85 per 100,000 people according to the CDC Covid tracker. Get an update in next week's Pine Knot News.

As a public health nurse, whether it's required or not, Jenny Barta says it's never a bad idea to put on a mask.

While Carlton County had not reinstated any masking requirements before the Pine Knot News went to press, St. Louis County is requiring masks inside public places, regardless of vaccination status, because the county is experiencing "substantial" transmission of Covid-19 according to the CDC's Covid data tracker. As of Tuesday, St. Louis County had risen to 54.4 cases per 100,000 residents.

Barta said Carlton County was rated "low" on the CDC model on Tuesday, but jumped to moderate overnight. Moderate transmission applies to counties with 10–49 cumulative cases per 100,000 population or a cumulative test positivity result between 5–7.9 percent in the past 7 days. As of Wednesday, Aug. 4, Carlton County was at 3,589 total cases of Covid since the pandemic began - an increase of 20 since last Tuesday, July 27. The county remained at 59 deaths due to Covid, with no new deaths.

"So we have seen a modest increase in cases and we're talking with county officials today about our recommendations going forward," Barta said Wednesday afternoon. "We know with the Delta variant circulating it is more highly transmissible. When you're indoors, especially in counties with higher transmission, I'd recommend putting a mask on even if you're vaccinated."

The next free Covid-19 vaccination clinic offered by Carlton County Public Health runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10. Either the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available. Vaccinations are also available at local pharmacies, doctor's clinics and hospitals.

Barta also strongly recommended that people get vaccinated for Covid-19, echoing the now common "pandemic of the unvaccinated" descriptor. "We know it reduces the spread of the virus," she said. "More than 97 percent of hospitalizations due to Covid have been in unvaccinated individuals."

New Covid measures

Beginning Thursday, Aug. 5, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College will require all employees, students, vendors, and visitors to wear masks inside campus buildings. Fall Semester is planned to start as scheduled with face-to-face classes on Monday, Aug. 23.

"From the very beginning when the pandemic hit in March 2020, the health and safety of our campus community has always been the impetus for any decision made regarding Covid-19 protocols. Now, as fall semester 2021 is quickly approaching, we are again faced with an increasing number of cases in Carlton and surrounding counties and must take the additional step of mandating the wearing of masks ... By wearing masks while on campus now, we hope to stay in front of the curve and do as much as we can to limit any potential spread," President Stephanie Hammitt said.

Essentia Health announced it will require all staff members to be vaccinated against COVID as a condition of their employment. Vaccination also will be required as a condition of entering facilities to perform services for Essentia Health.

"Our patients entrust their care to us in some of the most vulnerable times in their lives. They depend on us to be vaccinated to help keep them safe. Thus, vaccination is especially important for our health care workers whose duty it is to protect vulnerable, elderly and critically ill patients," the Essentia press release stated.

Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet does not require employees to be vaccinated at this point, said spokesperson Nancy Taggert. However, CMH has reverted back to even stricter guidelines about the masks and social distancing for employees recently.