St. Louis County Public Health discusses COVID-19 trends and vaccination efforts

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: January 12, 2021 06:13 PM
Created: January 12, 2021 05:12 PM

In a county board meeting, St. Louis County Public Health gave an update on COVID-19 trends and ongoing vaccination efforts.

SLC Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook said in terms of cases and hospitalizations, trends are going in the right direction.

They've been seeing a decline and mentioned school case rates are also decreasing, which is why some schools are able to go back to in-person or hybrid model learning.

Westbrook said although statewide testing numbers have gone down slightly, positivity rates have increased a bit over the past couple of weeks, so did the number of deaths. Westbrook said the largest percent of deaths are in the older population in long-term care facilities with the median age of 84.

"Unfortunately we haven't seen our deaths decrease. We're hoping that with the decrease in case rate and hospitalizations that we'll see the number of deaths decrease," said Westbrook. "Our positivity rate has increased over the last week or so. We're seeing fewer people get tested but we're seeing a higher percentage of people coming back positive."

The Minnesota Department of Health identified five cases of the new COVID-19 variant strain in the state but said the current vaccine is effective against it and is why there is no change in prevention or control recommendations. 

Regarding the vaccination, Westbrook said they have six clinic teams that are vaccinating six days a week and are working to expand resources. She also mentioned clinic trailers they want to start using soon.

"We have two mobile clinic trailers. We're intending to utilize them for testing and for vaccinations. We are hoping to operationalize those by the end of next week," said Westbrook.

However, Westbrook did add they anticipate they'll need additional capacity to run the clinics.

"We're working with some of our institutions of higher education for student populations and looking to our Minnesota response registry for volunteers," said Westbrook.

St. Louis County received it's first shipment of the Moderna vaccine on Dec. 23 and had a vaccine clinic on Dec. 24 in Virginia. They have vaccination clinics at the county buildings in Duluth, Virginia, Ely, and Hibbing.

St. Louis County Public Health is one of three health systems that have vaccinated over 8,000 people among the first priority groups. The vaccine is being prioritized for certified EMS personnel, healthcare personnel and long-term care facilities.

Although guidance is still in development, the next group to get the vaccine would be essential workforce and individuals aged 75 and older.

The county is following up with those needing to get vaccinated, or those due for their second dose and scheduled appointments are being offered online to prioritized groups.

Any employer whose staff qualifies who has not already been contacted by St. Louis County Public Health or other systems is encouraged to register.

Westbrook said although there's advancement in the COVID-19 mitigation efforts, we need to remain vigilant and work collectively to keep cases down.

"It's really a reminder for everybody to really continue wearing masks, continue to social distance to stay home," said Westbrook.

Those with questions can call the COVID-19 information line at 218-625-3600.


Alejandra Palacios

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