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COVID-19 case growth, positivity rates down in Northland again this week

The 10 counties of the Northland collectively logged fewer than 300 new cases this week for the first time since early September.

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Minnesota public health officials started off Thursday's COVID-19 media call on a positive note: New COVID-19 case growth has continued to decline along with the percentage of tests coming back positive.

"There are reasons to feel good about the overall direction that we're headed," said Kris Ehresmann, director of Minnesota Department of Health's infectious disease division. "The light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter every day, not only to the rising number of vaccinations, but also to the hard work of so many people across Minnesota, and we can have hope that we're on our way to end this pandemic."

The Northland, which includes three counties in Wisconsin, logged fewer than 300 cases this week. That's the first time since early September. The week before the region had about 440 new cases.

On Thursday the state's seven-day testing positive rate was 3.9%, the lowest it's been since June 27 when weekly testing volumes were less than half of what they are now, said health department commissioner, Jan Malcolm.

Across the seven-county region of Northeastern Minnesota the positivity rate was about 2.1% and below 5% in every county. That hasn't happened since the News Tribune began tracking weekly rates Oct. 1.

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Still, new and more contagious COVID-19 variants require Minnesotans to not let their guards down, Ehresmann said. As of Thursday, Minnesota had identified 18 cases of the variant first detected in the United Kingdom and two cases of the variant first detected in Brazil.

"The more transmission there is, the more opportunities there are for mutations and development of variants of concern," she said. "The more that we can do to prevent unnecessary transmission, the better."

The 10-county Northland region recorded 10 new deaths from COVID-19 since Feb. 5. Half of those people lived in Wisconsin's Douglas County, four lived in St. Louis County and one was a resident of Lake County.

Testing numbers in Northeastern Minnesota were down by a couple thousand, or 17%, this week compared to last week. That number has been steadily declining after peaking in late November.

St. Louis County

St. Louis County logged 145 more people with COVID-19 in the last week.

New cases this week in St. Louis County postal communities:

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  • Duluth — 51.
  • Hibbing — 19.
  • Virginia — 16.
  • Hermantown, Gilbert — each had 9.
  • Hibbing, Eveleth — each had 8.
  • Saginaw — 6.
  • Mountain Iron, Chisholm — each had 5.

All other communities either had fewer than five or no new cases.

Carlton County

Carlton County had a little over 30 new cases this week. Nineteen of those people live in Cloquet's ZIP code and five live in Esko's, according to the state's weekly COVID-19 data. Carlton and Wrenshall's ZIP codes each had three new cases.

Vaccines

More than 50,000 people have now received a COVID-19 vaccine in Northeastern Minnesota and 27% of those people have completed the two-dose series.

In the Wisconsin Northland counties — Ashland, Bayfield and Douglas counties — more than 10,300 people have received a vaccine and 30% of those people have received both shots.

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