Northland COVID cases decline, health leaders encourage vigilance

Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 6:05 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - Omicron’s hold on Minnesota may be coming to an end.

Data released Monday from the Minnesota Department of Health shows statewide, cases have dropped nearly two-thirds since the last week of January.

The same can be said for the Northland, which saw the highest number of COVID cases yet this past month.

“The COVID impact to our organizations does feel lighter in recent weeks,” said Jean MacDonell, President and CEO of Grand Itasca Hospital.

In mid-January, St. Louis County topped out at just over 650 new cases daily, the highest number of the pandemic so far.

Now, just one month later, the latest numbers show fewer than 100 new cases a day across the county.

Even rural areas like Itasca County say they are seeing the decline.

“Right now, our 14-day case rate is 108. That is down from the high 170s that we saw at the end of January,” said Kelly Chandler, Public Health Division Manager for Itasca County.

While this is good news in the fight against the pandemic, health leaders from across the Northland say we are not out of the woods just yet from a healthcare standpoint.

“It’s a little premature to change out health behaviors or recommendations just yet because we are still seeing our hospitalizations pretty stressed,” said Amy Westbrook, Public Health Division Director for St. Louis County.

Westbrook encourages people to still mask up, get vaccinated, and test often to prevent another surge.

“The stress and burnout of our front-line workers is real, and we’re hoping to see a prolonged decrease in this surge so we can give staff some relief and time to focus on restoring their energy and, frankly, their passion for healthcare,” said MacDonell.

Both counties say these numbers do not incorporate at-home tests, which have been more readily available this month and could show higher case numbers than those reported.

Health leaders are still encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID.

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