High School Athletes Urge Itasca County to Follow COVID Guidlines as Cases Continue to Rise

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn.– Itasca County is among the places around the Northland seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases.

The rise in recent weeks has health experts and education leaders working together to try and reverse this trend.

With cases nearly doubling in Itasca County over the last couple weeks, county health officials are urging everyone in the area to step up efforts to prevent more cases.

Within the last two weeks, Itasca County has seen 223 new COVID-19 cases.  112 of those cases have come over just the last seven days, raising the rate of transmission per 10,000 residents to 46 percent.

Itasca County Public Health experts point to community spread from large gatherings and too many people not following health guidelines close enough for the uptick in cases. Events at bars and restaurants, weddings, and some worksites have all been traced to COVID outbreaks in the county.

“It could be worksite clusters, just small family group gatherings.” Kelly Chandler, Manager of the Itasca County Public Health Department. “All of these are contributing to the spread in Itasca County. Regardless of whether it’s a small community or a larger community, it’s happening everywhere.”

Not only are group gatherings leading to an increase in cases, they are also impacting the ability of Itasca County students to go to school. Grand Rapids High School has already transitioned into a hybrid model after starting the year in person.

“We need your help to get cases down in order for schools to provide in-person learning within the buildings.”

If the 14 day case rate continues to rise, it would mean fully distanced learning for schools in the county. An increase in cases could put a pause on school activities, like high school athletics.

Blake Fox is a senior at Deer River High School who’s also on the football team. The pandemic already took away his opportunity to play baseball last spring. Now in his final year, he hopes the rise in cases won’t keep him off the field.

“I really just don’t want to miss out on a full year of sports being that this is my last year,” said Fox. “And I’m just trying to keep the community safe so we can continue with sports.”

Itasca Coutny health officials say they are not considering any new measures at this time but are asking those in the county to social distance, avoid large gatherings, and to wear a mask when in public or large group settings.