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Northland logs 131 new COVID-19 cases as variants spread, vaccine rates decline

Minnesota health officials urge those eligible to get the vaccine to help keep kids in school.

FSA Coronavirus local

Minnesota and Wisconsin health officials reported Friday that another 131 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Northland.

The 10-county region logged no new deaths for the fifth day in a row. Itasca County logged the most cases in a single day since it peaked on Dec. 5 with 69 new cases.

State health officials are seeing the B117 variant spreading, a surge in cases in K-12 schools and COVID-19 vaccine rates declining as it becomes easier to schedule an appointment, Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Thursday in a media call. Malcolm urged people who are eligible to get the vaccine to do so.

"This cuts down on the number of opportunities for a virus to find its way into the classroom, into the sports team or other activities," she said.

Earlier this week, both St. Luke's and Essentia Health in Duluth reported that they had an excess of unspoken-for vaccine appointments at their clinics.

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On Thursday, Essentia Health began taking walk-in appointments at its vaccine clinic in Duluth's Miller Hill Mall for people seeking their first dose. The clinic will accept walk-ins for the Pfizer vaccine from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and again from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday for the Moderna vaccine.

The Minnesota Department of Health estimates that 60% of the COVID-19 cases in the state are B117 variants, which is the variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom. Not only is the variant more contagious, Malcolm said, but it's leading to higher rates of hospitalization.

Dr. Brooke Moore, pediatric pulmonologist at Children's Respiratory and Critical Care Specialists said that, while most children with COVID-19 don't exhibit symptoms, about 10% develop severe disease.

Because no vaccines have been approved for use on people under the age of 16, children are not yet authorized to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

In the last week, 11 children with COVID-19 have been admitted to Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

"This is double what we have seen on average in the last couple of months," Moore said, adding that Black, Indigenous and children of color have been disproportionately impacted.

SEE ALSO: Northland teens get vaccinated to protect others as COVID-19 cases surge
New cases and seven-day averages in Northland counties:

  • Aitkin — 1; 1.7.
  • Carlton — 14; 7.6.
  • Cook — 1; 0.9.
  • Itasca — 44; 24.4.
  • Koochiching — 5; 2.9.
  • Lake — 0; 1.4.
  • St. Louis — 57; 48.3.
  • Ashland — 3; 1.3.
  • Bayfield — 2; 0.6.
  • Douglas — 4; 7.4.

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Another 1,000 people in Northeastern Minnesota have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Of the population age 16 and older and eligible to receive the vaccine in the seven-county region, 57% have had their first dose. When factoring in the entire region's population, that number is 48%.

Another 379 people in Ashland, Bayfield and Douglas counties have received their first dose, bringing the percentage of people in the region with at least one dose to 47%.

This story was updated at 4:38 p.m. April 23 with information from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. It was originally posted at 12:26 p.m.

The story originally contained the wrong total of new cases in Northeastern Minnesota. The News Tribune regrets the error.

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