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Cases continue on a downward trend across the Northland

One person died of COVID-19 in St. Louis County.

FSA Coronavirus local

The state of Minnesota reported one new death from COVID-19 and its complications in Northeastern Minnesota on Tuesday.

The person was a St. Louis County resident in their early 80s, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The county has now lost 159 lives to the illness.

Also in St. Louis County, 94 more residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. For about a month beginning in early November, the number of new cases the county logged each day was consistently over 100, often over 200 and sometimes more than 300.

That trend started noticeably shifting in early December, and since then there have now been three days where the number of new cases reported in a single day has been under 100. In the last seven days, St. Louis County has logged an average of 123 new cases per day.

Across the region, new cases have declined from the mid-to-late November peak.


Itasca County reported in a news release on Tuesday that its 14-day case rate per 10,000 residents has dropped below 100 for the first time since mid-November. As of Saturday the rate was 99.6 cases.

Despite the drop in cases, more people are being hospitalized with COVID-19, an illness that often keeps patients in an ICU for up to three weeks. As of Tuesday, Itasca County was reporting that 71 residents were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 16 of them were in an intensive care unit.

Kelly Chandler, division manager for Itasca County Public Health, said the numbers show residents are doing more to prevent the spread of the virus, but the pandemic's not over yet.

“We have miles to go before we can relax, though. We will be wearing masks, keeping 6 feet of physical distance and avoiding gatherings for months still," Chandler said. "Thank you for every sacrifice as we all work to keep our health care systems functioning and our neighbors out of the hospital. It matters.”

Itasca County logged 19 new cases, putting its most recent seven-day average at 30 new cases a day.

Testing rates in Minnesota have also dropped but Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the testing positivity rate — the percentage of completed diagnostic tests that are positive — suggests that testing isn't the reason for the lower case numbers.

As of Tuesday, the seven-day average testing positivity rate statewide was 10.9% and has continued to decline, Malcolm said in a news conference.

Malcolm added that we may not have yet seen the full impact that Thanksgiving gatherings have had on the pandemic. Previously, public health officials have said it can about two weeks for the effects of gatherings to be seen, but have since learned it takes around four weeks.


"If there is a Thanksgiving bump it is in the context of numbers which have come down from where they were when we were seeing that really rapid day-over-day and week-over-week increase," Malcolm said.

As of Tuesday, there were more than 1,300 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota and 300 were in intensive care.

New cases and seven-day averages in other counties:

  • Aitkin — 14; 11.
  • Carlton — 17; 26.
  • Cook — 0; 1.
  • Koochiching — 4; 6.
  • Lake — 5; 4.
  • Ashland — 14; 12.
  • Bayfield — 14; 11.
  • Douglas — 54; 40.

Statewide, Minnesota reported 2,340 new cases and 21 more lives lost Tuesday. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported a 3,501 new cases and 54 deaths.
This story was updated at 9:05 a.m. Dec. 16 with information from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. It was originally posted at 11:46 a.m. Dec. 15.

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