Largest increase in COVID-19 cases reported in St. Louis County

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: October 29, 2020 07:31 PM

The City of Duluth provided a COVID-19 update Thursday with several health and school leaders.


Mayor Emily Larson said COVID-19 numbers are going up. She encourages people to get tested at the DECC and to continue following COVID-19 guidelines. Leaders said it is especially important to consider these guidelines with the upcoming election.

Amy Westbrook, the St. Louis County Director of Public Health said we set a new record Thursday in St. Louis County for single largest increase in COVID-19 cases with 115 and three new deaths, bringing the cumulative total deaths to 74.

Westbrook said 21 people are being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and there's currently eight in the ICU.

Westbrook said in the last two months they have seen a major increase.

From March to August Westbrook said there were 947 cases and since September we have had 2,330 cases, which Westbrook said is a 70 percent increase in those two months.

"We need to take this seriously it's not a time to let our guard down. We're coming into the winter months so we know that people are moving inside. It's so critical to wear those masks and to social distance," said Westbrook.

Westbrook also said 61 percent of the COVID-19 deaths have occurred since Sept. 1 and almost 60 percent of hospitalizations and people in the ICU have occurred since September as well. Westbrook said in the last 10 days there's been over 20 people hospitalized per day with COVID-19.

She also said half of the cases result from community transmission. With colleges and universities, Westbrook said 15 percent of cases are associated with institutions of higher education. Westbrook said most are linked to off campus housing.

St. Luke's and Essentia said they are seeing an increase in hospitalizations from people who have delayed their care. Leaders from the hospital reminded the community that it is safe to go to the hospital and to not delay your care.

Dr. Jon Pryor, the East Market President of Essentia Health, said they have noted a high volume of inpatients that are not COVID-19 related but instead from people not getting their routine medical care. He encouraged people who need preventative care to come get evaluated.

"We need you to avoid delays in care. It can create greater health concerns for you in the long run if you're delaying a visit to the hospital," said Dr. Nick Van Deelen, St. Luke's Chief Medical Officer.

Pryor also said their hospital capacity is stressed but they have plans in place to respond to this, which involves managing staff and resources, triaging patients as appropriate, and occasionally transporting patients between Essentia Health facilities. He also said they are working on designating a wing strictly for COVID-19 to keep patients isolated.

Pryor and Van Deelen said things won't be going back to normal yet and advise people to consider travel plans with caution for the holidays.

"The best way to be completely safe both ourselves and keep our loved ones safe is to celebrate remotely," said Van Deelen.

They remind people the importance of social distancing, avoiding public indoor settings, wearing a face mask, and washing your hands. They also stressed the importance of getting a flu shot.

Van Deelen said St. Luke's has been engaging in tabletop exercises with the Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet and also with Lakeview Hospital in Two Harbors regarding lateral patient transfers, which is when patients are moved between hospitals of comparable resources and capabilities.

"These transfers will only happen when it's appropriate for the patients being transferred. And if there's an influx of patients at St. Luke's, if things become worse with COVID-19 and we end up having a greater number of patients in need of more serious treatment, moving patients who do not need as great a level of care will ensure that regional hospitals are collectively meeting the needs of everyone," said Van Deelen.

ISD 709 Superintendent Dr. Jon Magas said they have noted how students who already have opportunity gaps and challenges with access to learning have been struggling with distance learning. He said they are working hard at finding ways to help those students. He said they are looking at synchronous learning and ordered thousands of additional computers for students.

He also said mental health is important. He said they have had a higher number of students having suicidal feelings or suicidal attempts. He said checking up on one another is important.


Alejandra Palacios

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