UPDATED: COVID cases jump by more than 200% in Beltrami County

Just over a week ago Beltrami County was monitoring just one to two coronavirus cases. That number is now up to 94. Because of the increase, masks are recommended indoors based on guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health.

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BEMIDJI -- Face coverings are being encouraged again locally as the number of coronavirus cases in Beltrami County has increased dramatically in the last week.

According to Beltrami County Public Health Director Megan Heuer, there's been a 221% increase in COVID-19 positive cases. Just over a week ago, the county was monitoring one to two cases per day. The department is now monitoring 96.

Because of the increase, Beltrami County has been listed in the Center for Disease Control's "high level" category for transmission. There are four categories from the CDC related to transmission, including low, moderate, substantial and high.

Both the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health are basing their mask guidance around these transmission levels and are now recommending masks in areas with substantial and high categories in all indoor spaces. This recommendation is for all people, regardless of vaccination status.

Across the state as a whole, 3.2 million Minnesotans have received one dose while 3.03 million have completed the vaccine series. In Beltrami County, 21,189 residents have gotten the first vaccine dose and 19,950 have had both shots.


The emergence of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, though, has caused health agencies to encourage extra precautions. On July 27, the CDC updated its guidance based on Delta being nearly twice as contagious as previous variants. On its website, citing two different studies from Canada and Scotland, the CDC also noted that patients infected with the Delta variant were more likely to be hospitalized than with the original strain.

"We know that it's very transmissible and it's impacting people, so that mask is just one additional layer to keep yourself and others safe," Heuer said on the mask recommendation. "From our perspective, it's about asking people to take personal responsibility to keep themselves, their families and the rest of the community safe. We want to get our kids back in school, our businesses open and events happening. It's not just one strategy that will keep the virus at bay, it's all of these together."

In Minnesota, as many as 80% of the positive cases statewide are a result of the Delta variant. As of Friday morning, there have been 624,851 cases since the pandemic reached the state, with 608,472 now out of isolation.

In Beltrami County, the number has reached 4,227 cases. The only surrounding county with more recorded cases is Itasca, with 4,727.

Beltrami County has also recorded two more deaths from COVID recently for a total of 65. Across the state as a whole, there have been 7,729 deaths recorded from COVID.

Vaccines still effective

Heuer said that while the percentage of those with the vaccination contracting the virus is low, it can happen. However, she maintains that the vaccines are doing their job, as they're protecting against severe illness and death.

"Vaccines are still our most effective mean to control the virus," Heuer said. "The more people who're vaccinated, the less opportunity the virus has to mutate, change and get stronger. We're really seeing those areas of low vaccination rates becoming where the virus take hold."


The CDC also states that while fully vaccinated people can get the Delta variant, they appear to be infectious for a shorter period of time. On its website, the CDC adds that while not 100% effective, the vaccine provides people strong protection against serious illness and death.

"We've been hearing more about these breakthrough cases where someone who's been fully vaccinated still gets a positive test," Heuer said. "This happens with the flu and other vaccines, not just COVID. The goal of the vaccine, though, is to decrease serious illness, hospitalizations and the morbidity of COVID and that's exactly what the vaccine continues to do. We're finding in these cases that the symptoms are very mild, if no symptoms at all. They're also recovering faster and not requiring hospitalization."

Heuer said there are currently five in Beltrami County who are hospitalized, with three of them being residents. MDH, meanwhile, has reported a total of 33,930 hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

Vaccines are free and available through the Beltrami County Public Health office, Sanford Health and other health provider locations, as well as pharmacies. Beltrami County is now encouraging the public to protect themselves and stay vigilant with washing hands, staying home when sick, physical distancing, wearing masks and getting vaccinated.

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