More deaths were recorded from COVID-19 across the Northland in the last week than in any other week since the pandemic started.
Minnesota and Wisconsin have reported 26 deaths in the 10-county region of the Northland since Nov. 13.
Eight of them were in St. Louis County, bringing its total to 87 lives lost. Aitkin and Koochiching counties each recorded five deaths this last week, putting their totals at 13 and five, respectively. Lake County logged its first death.
The number of deaths since Nov. 13 and the total number of deaths in other Northland counties:
- Itasca — 3; 21.
- Bayfield — 2; 6.
- Ashland — 2; 7.
- Carlton — 1; 9.
Douglas and Cook counties were the only counties not to report a death this week. No Cook County residents have died from COVID-19 as of Thursday.
Meanwhile, six of the 10 counties logged record numbers of new cases in the last week, and all have done so for at least the last three weeks.
St. Louis, Lake, Koochiching, Aitkin and Itasca counties as well as Wisconsin's Douglas County all broke their own weekly case records, according to the number of new cases the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota have reported since Nov. 13.
The steepest increases were in the most rural of those counties, with Lake County logging 82 more people who have tested positive — an 81% increase when compared to the number of cases from the week prior. Koochiching had a 51% increase from the previous week with 62 new cases and Aitkin County had a 31% increase with 167 new cases.
In Itasca County, 311 new cases were reported since Nov. 13 and 308 new cases were reported in Douglas County.
As cases rise, so do hospitalizations and the strains on the health care system.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, joined a COVID-19 research presentation hosted by the Whiteside Institute for Clinical Research, a joint effort between St. Luke's and the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus, on Wednesday evening. He forecast a doubling in case numbers in the coming weeks.
"I worry desperately that we will be putting our health care systems on the brink of collapse," Osterholm said.
"I fear more than I can tell you that what's going to finally help the citizens of this country understand what's going on is when they start seeing hospitals literally come to a breaking point," he said.
Osterholm was frank: The most important thing everyone can do is stop swapping air. That means limiting all contacts, including close friends as well as family who don't live in the same household.
"Do you know how many outbreaks we've had recently just in people who are getting together for Sunday football game watching, 10-15 guys getting together?" he said. "How many times funerals and weddings have turned into major events? It's just happening over and over again like this."
While he recommends masking for everyone, it's not the "be-all end-all."
Osterholm was selected by President-elect Joe Biden to serve on his COVID-19 task force.
St. Louis County
About 1,500 St. Louis County residents were reported in the last week to have tested positive for the virus. More than 850 of those people — 56% — live in Duluth. Hibbing recorded the second-most new cases with 160.
New cases from the last week in other St. Louis County cities:
- Hermantown — 81.
- Virginia — 48.
- Proctor — 41.
- Eveleth— 39.
- Ely — 31.
- Saginaw — 27.
- Mountain Iron; Aurora — 13 each.
- Alborn — 11.
- Iron — 10.
All other towns in St. Louis County recorded less than 10 more people who tested positive.
St. Louis County experienced a 26% increase in cases when compared to the number of cases reported the previous week.
Of the 300 cases recorded in Carlton County in the last week, 161 — nearly 54% — of them live in Cloquet's ZIP code, according to the Minnesota Department of Health's weekly ZIP code update.
Number of new cases in other Carlton County ZIP codes:
- Esko — 38.
- Moose Lake — 31.
- Wrenshall — 26.
- Carlton — 21.
- Barnum — 20.
All other ZIP codes in Carlton County logged fewer than 10 new cases.
This story was updated at 11:47 a.m. Nov. 23 to correct the name of a COVID-19 research presentation host. The story was originally posted at 6:48 p.m. Thursday. The News Tribune regrets the error.