COVID-19 cases and deaths surge in communities across Iron Range; St. Louis County Public Health urges people to use caution
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its seventh month, St. Louis County Public Health continues to monitor trends in data as the virus has spread across various communities.
In September, confirmed cases grew quickly in the Duluth area, with many of the cases linked to college students living off-campus. Now in October, the county is experiencing dramatic growth in cases in communities across the Iron Range. Of the total number of cases in greater St. Louis County, 41 percent have occurred in the last month. Greater St. Louis County refers to all parts of the county outside the ZIP codes of Duluth, Hermantown, Proctor and Saginaw.
"COVID fatigue is real. We know that and are feeling it ourselves," said Amy Westbrook, St. Louis County Public Health Division director. "But we are seeing significant transmission of this virus through community spread, and we need everyone to continue being careful. Social distance or avoid small gatherings. Wear a mask if you can't social distance - even when around extended family and friends. And absolutely stay home if you're sick."
Of these cases, 25 percent are attributed to contact with a confirmed case, and 28.5 percent are community spread with no identified source of exposure. Eleven percent identified they'd attended a community event or social gathering.
More alarming is the increase in deaths. In the first five months of the pandemic, there was just one COVID related death reported in greater St. Louis County. Since Sept. 1, that number has since jumped to 31 deaths.
"We need people to protect each other and reduce the community spread," said Westbrook. "If you have the virus, you may only have minor symptoms or no symptoms at all, but you could unknowingly spread it to someone who works with a vulnerable population, such as in a long term care facility. And they, in turn, could unknowingly bring the virus into their work place where the results may be deadly."
County wide, the number of serious cases requiring hospitalization is at an all-time high. As of today, there are 23 people hospitalized, with seven in intensive care.
"Our priority is to ensure our medical partners don't get overwhelmed," said Westbrook. "And we know many are concerned and wanting to ensure kids are able to go to school and participate in sports and other activities. The solution to both is the same - stay vigilant at all times."
More information about COVID-19, the county's response to it, and the online dashboard with data specific to St. Louis County cases can be found online at stlouiscountymn.gov/covid19.