Most St. Louis County COVID cases located in Duluth
County health experts warn that it's still possible to contract the virus in rural communities.
Since the start of the pandemic, most of St. Louis County's COVID-19 cases have been located in Duluth, according to monthly totals released this week.
The county reports that more than half of its COVID-positive people resided in Duluth in March and May, while nearly three-quarters of them were located in the city in June. Over 87% of the county's confirmed cases were located in Duluth in April.
The city-level data comes from the Minnesota Department of Health and was made available by St. Louis County, following a News Tribune data practices act request. The county denied releasing information about COVID cases in other St. Louis County cities due to privacy concerns, as people may be identified in communities with lower case counts, according to the county.
Linnea Mirsch, director of St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services, said she isn't surprised by the data as outbreaks in long-term and assisted-living facilities in the city have been well documented.
St. Ann's Nondenominational Senior Residence is one such facility hit hard by the virus . It has confirmed 30 cases of COVID and lost 11 lives to the virus, according to data released this week from the health department.
This outbreak began at St. Ann's in early April — a month where, in total, over 87% of confirmed cases were located in Duluth.
In June, over 74% of the confirmed cases were located in Duluth, over 56% of the cases were located in the city in March and around 54% in May, according to St. Louis County's data.
But the risk of contracting the virus is still present in other cities, Mirsch said. Cases have been confirmed in all seven commissioner districts as well as "well-documented" community transmission throughout the entire county.
This underscores the need to follow safety guidelines like wearing masks, practicing social distancing and following other safety measures, she said.
"We absolutely want to encourage people to follow all recommended guidance to protect themselves and to minimize the risk of spread — regardless of where confirmed cases are," Mirsch said.
While there are higher total case numbers in April and June across the county, it's difficult to say there was an uptick in those months because testing requirements frequently change, she said.
At the pandemic's start, only those who were symptomatic could be tested. Now testing is more widely available .
Mirsch added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there may be 10 times more cases than reported.
"It really makes it clear that we all need to be very vigilant protecting ourselves and others, especially the most vulnerable," she said.