Record-Breaking Growth in COVID-19 Cases Causing Concern in Northland

St. Louis County Health Officials said in the last two months, half of the county's coronavirus cases have been a result of community spread.

DULUTH, Minn.- As the state of Minnesota reported their highest daily COVID-19 case amount since the pandemic began City of Duluth officials, St. Louis County Public Health, School leaders and top doctors from St. Luke’s and Essentia say that upward trend is visible in the Twin Ports as well.

Since Wednesday, St. Louis County is reporting a record jump of 115 new cases.

Leadership at both hospitals say they have been experiencing higher volumes of people especially with the recent spikes.

“What we’re seeing most recently, really started two months ago is a concerning but steady increase in our COVID patients on top of our already very busy hospital setting,” St. Luke’s Medical Officer Dr. Nicholas Van Deelen said.

But the faster spread in the community, Dr. Van Deelen said, is adding to the staff burden. “So our staff are getting tired and they are having community exposures where some of them are coming down with COVID.”

St. Louis County Health Officials said in the last two months, half of the county’s coronavirus cases have been a result of community spread.

“That’s really troubling, so that means about 25% of people who are infected with COVID really do not know where they’re getting it,” said Public Health Director Amy Westbrook.

Meanwhile, the Duluth Schools Superintendent was also online. He said after dealing with area children first hand, it’s important to keep track of your family’s mental health in these strange and sometimes depressing times.

“We have had a higher umber of students having suicidal feelings or even suicidal attempts and it’s important to think about how are we3 addressing these needs from a safety perspective as well as preventative mental health perspective,” Superintendent John Magas said.

The colder winter months on the horizon cause concern in Westbrook. “It’s not a time to let our guard down and we’re coming into the winter months so we know that people are moving inside — it’s so critical to wear masks and to social distance.”

And as more people prepare to spend time with family over the holidays, Doctors encourage people to consider changing plans if possible.

“I would say the best way to be completely safe both ourselves and keep our loved ones is to celebrate remotely this holiday season,” said Dr. Van Deelen.

“If that’s not an option and we know that for some it can’t be either due to health constraints or what have you, then I think you have to use the tools we have available to us,” he said. “You have to mask all the time you have to maintain a greater than 6 ft distance between yourself and a loved one.”

Increasingly those small gatherings are becoming common sources of infection, according to Westbrook.

“We’re doing a good job at wearing masks and social distancing out in our public places, our grocery stores we’re doing a pretty good job. It’s our small gatherings where we’re seeing a lot of our transmission happen,” she said.

A grim reality, Dr. Van Deelen says, but reality nonetheless. “It’s really tough especially 8 months into this. We’re tired, we want to get back to normal — we are not able to get back to normal yet.”

Doctors from both Essentia and St. Luke’s wanted to emphasize that people should come in for care if needed, to avoid delay causing your issues to worsen and require more intensive care later on, part of their heavy volume now.

They stress their facilities are very controlled, sanitized, and safe. Added to that, staff at Essentia say they are working on designating a wing just for COVID-19 patients to further isolate them from others.

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