After weeks of consistently declining numbers of new COVID-19 cases in Minnesota, the state is seeing new cases start to creep up again, likely due to holiday gatherings.

That includes St. Louis and Carlton counties. In St. Louis County, the seven-day average of new cases has increased by eight more cases a day to 75, while in Carlton County it has increased by seven new cases to an average of 15 a day.

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in COVID-19 briefing Thursday that in the last seven days the state has averaged 2,300 new cases a days, an increase of about 1,800 more cases a day since the week between Christmas and New Year's.

"We do continue to watch for any bump in cases associated with the holiday gathering and we think we might be seeing a little bit of that," Malcolm said.

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The commissioner encouraged anyone who has been socializing as well as anyone who has any symptoms or has been exposed to COVID-19 to get tested so that, if infected, they can notify others prevent further spread.

"It didn't really take long, two months ago, when the pandemic quickly hit that inflection point and snowballed from what had been a fairly manageable level case growth to something that was really growing out of control and threatening hospital capacity," Malcolm said. "We want to absolutely do everything we can to avoid that happening."

Deaths from COVID-19 and its complications are the lowest they've been since early November in the Northland. In the last week the 10-county region logged 24 new deaths. Twenty of those people lived in St. Louis County. Itasca County logged two of those deaths while Carlton and Aitkin counties each had one.

Statewide, the number of hospital beds occupied with COVID-19 patients has dropped since prior to the holidays.

In the last seven days the state has averaged 87 hospital admissions daily for COVID-19, Malcolm said. That's a third of what the state was averaging at its peak in late November.

Testing volumes across the state, including Northeastern Minnesota, are still lower than what they were before the holidays.

The number of tests administered in Northeastern Minnesota during the last two weeks is down 20% from the two weeks preceding the Christmas holiday.

In addition to case numbers, the statewide testing positivity rate has also started inching up again. That's the case in Carlton, Koochiching and Cook counties, which have all seen an increase in over 1% in the last week. That said, all Northeastern Minnesota counties, excluding St. Louis County, had a positivity rate below 5% this last week.

The testing positivity rate is the percentage of COVID-19 diagnostic tests that came back positive. Public health experts widely view 5% and above as a sign of widespread community transmission.

St. Louis County

In the last week, St. Louis County has logged about 530 more people who have tested positive for COVID-19. That's the ninth-highest weekly total so far and about 32% of the county's weekly record in late November.

About 75% of the new cases are in southern St. Louis County, including Duluth, Hermantown, Saginaw and Proctor, according to the county's COVID-19 dashboard.

Number of new cases in St. Louis County cities this week:

  • Duluth — 352.
  • Hermantown — 33.
  • Virginia — 31.
  • Proctor — 18.
  • Hibbing — 17.
  • Eveleth — 12.

All other cities in the county had fewer than 10 new cases.

Carlton County

In the last week, Carlton County has recorded nearly 110 more people who have tested positive. About half of those people live in Cloquet's ZIP code, according to state data.

Number of new cases this week in Carlton County ZIP codes:

  • Cloquet — 56.
  • Moose Lake — 15.
  • Esko — 12.
  • Carlton — 11.
  • Barnum — 10.