Return to college contributes to increase in Northland COVID-19 cases

Emily Ness
Updated: September 25, 2020 10:09 PM

Officials say the return to college has contributed to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the Northland.


On Friday, St. Louis County saw its highest record of confirmed coronavirus cases in a single day at 74.

This comes after a number of Northland colleges welcomed students back to school.

“It’s the time that college students are coming back—they’re happy to see friends, which is great, but we just want them to do that responsibly,” Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook said.

According to Westbrook, 14% of COVID-19 cases reported in St. Louis County during the month of September have been related to the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Currently, UMD reports 20 cases of COVID-19 through September 24th.

In a statement, UMD said that given the size of their population, they expected to see cases of COVID-19 on campus and are prepared to manage them to the best of their ability. In the meantime, they are asking that students wear masks, wash their hands frequently and monitor their health on weekdays and weekends.

Other Northland colleges have also seen cases of COVID-19.

Lake Superior College reports 18 cases since the start of fall semester, while, the University of Wisconsin Superior reports 14 cases through September 24th. The College Of St. Scholastica does not list any information about COVID-19 cases.

A full list of COVID-19 updates for Northland colleges can be found here.

Westbrook said 97% of cases associated with colleges and universities in St. Louis County are linked to private residences, rather than dorms.

If a student or one of their roommates tests positive for COVID-19, Westbrook said they should quarantine, use separate bathrooms if possible or clean bathrooms thoroughly between uses and wear masks in shared spaces. This, in turn, will protect the greater community at large.

“Populations intersect. Even if you’re not part of a cohort of 20 to 24 year olds, that increase and that prevalence of disease is going to impact a lot of other people in our community,” Westbrook said.

According to Westbrook, 19 of the 74 newly reported cases today are in people aged 18 to 24, while 18 involve residents of long-term care facilities. There have been ten deaths related to COVID-19 in the past week in St. Louis County. Nine of those deaths involved residents of long-term care facilities.

“Our 20 to 24 year olds are those that work in long term care facilities, who volunteer at places where people gather or go for support or maybe serve vulnerable populations, so there’s connections to a healthy, young population to a lot more vulnerable populations,” Westbrook said.

In addition to wearing a mask, washing their hands and monitoring their health, Westbrook said one of the best things people can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is stay home if they aren’t feeling well. Westbrook emphasized that this can limit hospitalizations and save lives.


Emily Ness

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