St. Louis County public health welcomes state's dial-back measures as cases continue to rise
Another Aitkin County resident is dead from COVID-19.
St. Louis County reported on Tuesday 109 more residents who recently tested positive for the coronavirus. Most notably, of those people, 40 — 37% — are in their 20s, with the majority of those between ages 20 and 24. Twenty-five of the new cases, 23%, are in their 30s.
Also on Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz announced new restrictions on bars and restaurants . Beginning Friday, both must be closed to in-person dining and drinks from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. The state has also banned sitting at the bar in businesses where other seating is available. He also limited all indoor and outdoor gatherings to no more than 10 people as well as no more than three households.
In a news call with the governor and the Minnesota Department of Health, St. Louis County Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook said those restrictions make sense.
"Our data indicates that community transmission makes up at least 40% of our infections in St. Louis County," Westbrook said. "With community transmissions so widespread it's difficult to keep up with specific targeted interventions. So we welcome a turning back of the dial as we move through challenging times."
Hospitalizations in the county continue at new all-time highs, Westbrook said. With staffing levels an issue at many hospitals, changing the course of the virus through more preventative actions, such as mask wearing even around family members from a different household, is critical.
The governor's restrictions are meant to slow the spread of the virus in order to prevent hospitals from reaching capacity by targeting those between ages 18 and 35 who are disproportionately spreading the virus. In the last five days, Westbrook said about 50% of newly diagnosed residents were in that age range.
"People need to think of this as a trade-off and recognize we all need to put up with some minor inconveniences and precautions now, so that we can get this virus under control," she said.
Over the last seven days, the county has recorded an average of 134.6 new cases a day.
Duluth Public Schools announced Tuesday that it is moving the remaining grade levels to distance learning starting Nov. 19.
When factoring in population, Carlton County continues to outnumber St. Louis County in new cases per 10,000 people.
Carlton County on Tuesday recorded 38 new infections and a seven-day average of 35.9 new cases a day. However, the county leads the Northland in the 14-day rate of new infections per 10,000 people at 116.5.
Following the Cloquet Public School District's announcement last week that it would transition to distance learning for all grade levels, other school districts in Carlton County have followed suit, including Barnum Public Schools and Esko Public Schools.
Minnesota Department of Health guidelines recommend that school districts transition to distance learning at all grade levels when the 14-day case rate per 10,000 people is 50 infections or more.
Schools in some counties, like St. Louis, use more localized data to determine that rate, such as northern St. Louis County figures or the Duluth area.
Of the 23 new deaths the state reported on Tuesday, one lived in the Northland.
The person was an Aitkin County resident between ages 80 and 84, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Eight Aitkin County residents have now died from the illness.
New cases and seven-day averages in other Northland counties:
- Itasca — 21; 28.6
- Aitkin — 18; 16.3
- Cook — 0; 1.3
- Koochiching — 10; 5.1
- Lake — 2; 5
- Douglas — 50; 29.9
- Ashland — 13; 15
- Bayfield —9; 14.6
Minnesota reported 4,906 new infections. Completed diagnostic tests were up by 34,044, putting the state's single-day testing positivity rate — percentage of tests that come back positive — at 14.4%.
Wisconsin reported 7,073 more people who have tested positive and 66 deaths. None of those deaths were recorded in the Northland. The state is averaging a seven-day positivity rate of 36%.