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Walz commends Duluth testing center as COVID-19 continues spread in Northland

The Northland recorded 14 COVID-related deaths this week, the most since March.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, from left, chats with Kraig Rudstrom, Peter Hannegraf and Ella Krafve (mostly hidden) at the COVID-19 testing site at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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Gov. Tim Walz visited the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Thursday morning to see the expanded COVID-19 saliva PCR testing site and announce plans to continue expanding testing capabilities statewide as the delta variant continues to spread.

Walz said he asked the Minnesota Legislature to hold a special session to implement COVID-19 protections requested by hospitals, long-term care facilities and schools three weeks ago — including mask requirements, increased hospital bed capacity and new regulations — but the Republican Senate refused to take any action, which he called "totally unacceptable."

“I no longer possess the ability to be able to move on those things," Walz said. "We should have moved three weeks ago and we would not have as many people in the hospital today and that is a direct correlation.”

According to St. Louis County Public Health, 66 people with COVID-19 have been hospitalized so far in October. Of those, 10 have been admitted to an intensive care unit, and two are pediatric patients.

DECC testing site workers said they've seen a definite increase in people getting tested since the delta variant began spreading in the Northland, especially among school-age children and families. Peter Hannegraf, site manager, said there have been many first-timers who had never sought a COVID-19 test before now.


Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, back, talks with, from left, Kraig Rudstrom, Ella Krafve and Peter Hannegraf at the COVID-19 testing site at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Thursday, Oct., 14, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Recreational travelers entering Canada are required to provide a negative PCR test upon entry, which Walz said will likely increase demand at the DECC testing site even more.

COVID deaths on the rise

There were 14 COVID-19-related deaths recorded in the Northland this week, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. This is the largest seven-day total of deaths since mid-March. Six deaths were in St. Louis County, Itasca County recorded five, Carlton County had two and Aitkin County had one.

The Northland recorded 1,416 cases in its 10-county region Oct. 8-14. Last week, there were 1,496 cases in the region.

New cases in Northland counties Oct 8-14:

  • Aitkin — 80.
  • Carlton — 142.
  • Cook — 12.
  • Itasca — 196.
  • Koochiching — 18.
  • Lake — 31.
  • St. Louis — 802.
  • Ashland — 24.
  • Bayfield — 27.
  • Douglas — 84.

School outbreaks

Nineteen Northland schools have COVID-19 outbreaks — five or more confirmed cases in students or staff who were in the building while infectious during a two-week reporting period — the Minnesota Department of Health reported Thursday:

  • Cherry Elementary and Cherry Secondary in Iron.
  • Hibbing High in Hibbing.
  • Mesabi East Elementary and Mesabi East Secondary in Aurora.
  • North Woods Secondary in Cook.
  • Vaughan-Steffensrud Elementary in Chisholm.
  • Barnum Secondary in Barnum.
  • Winterquist Elementary in Esko.
  • Minnehaha Elementary in Two Harbors.
  • Bigfork Elementary and Bigfork Secondary in Bigfork.
  • Grand Rapids Senior High in Grand Rapids.
  • Robert J. Elkington Middle School in Grand Rapids.

  • King Elementary in Deer River.
  • Falls Elementary and Falls Secondary in International Falls.
  • Littlefork-Big Falls Elementary and Littlefork-Big Falls Secondary in Littlefork.

According to data from St. Louis County Public Health, 212 of the county's cases this week were in people younger than 20. People age 30-34 accounted for the most cases this week, with 66 people of that age testing positive. Sixty-five cases each were reported for people age 45-49 and children age 5-9. Children age 15-19 accounted for 64 new cases and children age 10-14 accounted for 63 new cases this week in the county.


St. Louis County

Of the 1,416 new cases in the Northland this week, 802 were in St. Louis County, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Last week, there were 810 cases in the county.

New cases in St. Louis County cities Oct. 8-14, according to St. Louis County Public Health:

  • Duluth — 350.
  • Hibbing — 97.
  • Virginia — 58.
  • Eveleth, Hermantown — 33 each.

  • Chisholm — 26.

  • Aurora — 21.
  • Saginaw — 17.
  • Gilbert — 16.
  • Iron, Proctor — 15 each.
  • Mountain Iron — 14.
  • Buhl — 11.
  • Britt — 10.
  • Ely — 8.
  • Babbitt, Cook, Hoyt Lakes — 7 each.
  • Biwabik, Culver — 6 each.
  • Alborn, Embarrass, Meadowlands — 5 each.

All other St. Louis County cities recorded fewer than five cases.
As of Thursday, the county's seven-day testing positivity rate was 7%, down 0.1% from last week. The county conducted 11,435 tests Oct. 8-14.

Carlton County

Carlton County logged 142 new cases in the last week. Those new cases came from 2,159 tests, putting this week's testing positivity rate at 6.6%, up 0.1% from last week.

New cases in Carlton County ZIP codes Oct. 8-14, according to Minnesota Department of Health data:

  • Cloquet — 79.
  • Esko — 22.
  • Barnum — 13.
  • Carlton — 7.
  • Moose Lake— 6
  • Wrenshall — 5.

All other Carlton County cities recorded fewer than five cases.
All Minnesota Northland counties except Koochiching had positive test rates above 5% this week. Aitkin County had a positive test rate of 14.2%, with 80 of the 565 tests conducted returning a positive case result.

In the Northland, 234,404 residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 223,268 residents are fully vaccinated.


Percentage of people with at least one vaccine dose in each county:

  • Aitkin — 53%.
  • Carlton — 60%.
  • Cook — 64%.
  • Itasca — 50%.
  • Koochiching — 51%.
  • Lake — 62%.
  • St. Louis — 60%.
  • Ashland — 63%.
  • Bayfield — 68%.
  • Douglas — 60%.
Laura Butterbrodt covers health and business for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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