Local health officials say COVID-19 cases are on the rise

Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 5:36 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations across the country including Minnesota.

Cases are up 14% nationally and northern Minnesota is also seeing an uptick in cases.

“COVID is not a thing of the past, there is still a lot of COVID out there,” Dr. Andrew Thompson, infectious disease physician with St. Luke’s, said. “There’s still significant disease and death that occurs due to COVID.”

Dr. Thompson said the state has seen a gradual increase in cases over the past month in a half. The Midwest has seen almost a 7.5% increase in COVID-19 cases over the past four weeks, according to the CDC.

“Compared to our last waves that we had in prior years, this is really small, but it’s still a significant increase,” Dr. Thompson said. “It’s still a little above what we were early in the summer.”

Each hospital reports COVID-19 cases to the Minnesota Department of Health, but another way officials track COVID-19 cases is through the wastewater. Dr. Thompson said officials can test sewer system water and look at the level of viruses in the water, which gives health experts a better understanding of the COVID-19 spread in a community.

“We’ll see the wastewater levels go up before we see people presenting to care, coming into emergency rooms and things like that, and it tracks quite well with disease activity,” Dr. Thompson said.

This fall season, COVID-19 isn’t the only respiratory illness that could get you sick.

“Flu, RSV and COVID-19, those are the three big respiratory illnesses that we are concerned about at this point,” St. Louis County Public Health Nurse Rillis Eklund said.

Health officials said the best way to protect yourself is to stay home when you’re sick and get vaccines. Dr. Thompson said an updated COVID-19 booster will be available to patients in the upcoming months.

“The original vaccine would have decreased effectiveness, but this updated vaccine does work against the currently circulated variants against the XBB strains,” Dr. Thompson said.

Dr. Thompson says flu vaccines will be available at St. Luke’s in the coming weeks and recommends to get all the vaccines you need at once to be protected. If you do test positive for COVID-19, the CDC still recommends quarantining for five days.

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