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Covid comes knocking

Monday’s Wrenshall school board meeting began with a palpable moment of silence. Superintendent Kim Belcastro said the family of board member Alice Kloepke reported she had taken a turn for the worse in a battle with Covid-19 and was in an intensive care unit in the Twin Cities area.

Hours earlier, Wrenshall resident Shelly Kilby posted a dire report on her husband Steve. “They needed to intubate Steve. It was a tough decision for him. They have called the six surrounding states to try and find a critical care unit for him. He received a transfer to a critical care hospital and this morning he will be in Minneapolis.”

Two numbing cases of Covid in one very small community. It tells the story of the Covid-19 pandemic in Minnesota as cases spike to levels not seen since a year ago, when Covid raced through communities after a summer lull.

For the Kilby family, things got brighter Wednesday. Shelly had said doctors were optimistic because Steve’s organs were in good shape and he was a relatively young Covid patient.

On the family’s GoFundMe page, a friend reported that “they took the breathing tube out, he is pain-free, awake, talking and responding appropriately. He is still on the (oxygenator) machine and his labs look good.”

From Nov. 10-16, 125 Minnesotans died from Covid-19 and 24,448 new cases were reported. Included in the most recent case numbers were 9,433 people who had been reinfected with Covid, meaning they had a previous positive case at least 90 days before. Breakthrough cases for people who are vaccinated against Covid are also on the rise, with 72,628 total cases reported as of Tuesday. That is still a very small percentage of the total, at 2.245 percent of the more than 3.23 million fully vaccinated Minnesotans, but that number has increased from the “less than 1 percent” touted a month or two ago.

Vaccination can make illness less severe in people who get vaccinated but still get sick.

Fully vaccinated people are also much less likely to be hospitalized or to die than people with similar risk factors who are not vaccinated. According to statistics from the Minnesota Department of Health, 0.098 percent of vaccinated people with breakthrough infections have been hospitalized, and 0.016 percent of vaccinated people with breakthrough infections have died.

Numbers of Covid cases are certainly on the rise in Carlton County. As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, the cumulative number of Covid cases sat at 5,052, with 70 deaths from Covid since the pandemic began. That is an increase of 146 cases since the state report issued on Nov. 11. Over the past month, county cases increased by 153 between Nov. 4-11, 193 cases from Oct. 28 to Nov. 4, and 105 from Oct. 21-28.

By zip code, from Nov. 4 to 11, there were 61 new cases in Cloquet, 27 in Esko, 20 in Moose Lake, 11 in Carlton, 14 in Barnum, four in Cromwell, and two in Kettle River after a 10-percent increase (of six) the week before.

Pine Knot News county reporter Dan Reed was probably among those counted in last week’s numbers, as he found out he was positive Nov. 8. Reed was vaccinated and due to get a booster shot that Friday.

Reed said his symptoms started several days before that.

“When it started, I thought it was a bad cold. For me that means throat and sinus, and I got real tired.” Reed figured he just needed to slow down, but then the coughing started. “I tried to do a couple things and I just didn’t have the energy,” said the 72-year-old, who cuts and sells spruce tips in the fall, so it’s a busy season.

Then it dawned on him. The cold was lasting too long — maybe it was Covid. Sure enough, the test came back positive.

“There are five of us who cut spruce tips, and all five of us got sick,” he said, sharing that the first person to have symptoms also works at a local grocery store.

Reed said it was the sickest he’s been in a long, long time. “The day after I got tested, I got weaker. I could feel my whole lung area and all the little sacs as I would breathe, like it was set apart from my body,” he said.

Off he went to the ER at Essentia Health-Moose Lake, where he was seen by a wonderful doctor. Reed said he watched his vitals, particularly his oxygen levels, which should have been in the high 90s. They got as low as 86 and 88 at times. Because he’d had previous lung issues, the doctor arranged for Reed to have an antibody infusion, which took about three hours, he said.

“I felt better knowing he said the odds are good they can keep me out of the hospital,” Reed said, adding that his stomach is also not quite right, along with his lungs and sinuses. “I’ve been holing up since then, trying to get better, but I still get real tired. At first I was really frustrated, but now I see I’m one of the luckiest people in the world because I didn’t end up in the ICU.”

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