BEMIDJI -- The Beltrami County Public Health Department is keeping busy as nearly 80 coronavirus cases are being actively tracked.
"We're doing our best to keep up with all of the new cases," Public Health Director Cynthia Borgen said. "We have 79 cases we're tracking right now and we're working especially hard on identifying where there may be clusters and how to address that. We're also watching for kids and staff at schools to make sure they're doing appropriate follow-up."
So far, Borgen said the department identified just one cluster recently, which was the result of a local wedding. This week, Borgen said the number of cases are likely to rise even more, as there's a series of public health testing sessions taking place.
The testing is taking place from noon to 6 p.m. through Thursday, at the Bemidji Armory, 1430 23rd St. NW. The testing is free to all, regardless if a person has symptoms or not.
"Often, testing reveals some of those asymptomatic cases, too," Borgen said. "So, we're guessing we'll find some of those through the testing."
Borgen said one of the duties for the department is assisting residents with essential services. The number of residents needing services ebbs and flows.
"We hadn't seen a lot for a while, but just yesterday we had a few people we provided shelter to and in another case we had to deliver some groceries," Borgen said. "We're informed by a system that the state has, where they let us know what the needs are and we follow up with it."
Since the pandemic came to Minnesota, Beltrami County has recorded a total of 460 COVID-19 cases as of Sept. 29. The amount is up from the 313 cases on Aug. 28. Beltrami County has the third most cases in northern Minnesota, behind St. Louis County with 1,725 and Clay County with 1,424. Beltrami also has more cases than nearby Polk County, which has recorded 327.
In Beltrami's surrounding counties, the total recorded cases are:
- 186 in Cass County.
- 31 in Clearwater County.
- 122 in Hubbard County.
- 352 in Itasca County.
- 123 in Koochiching County.
- 24 in Lake of the Woods Count.
- 53 in Marshall County.
- 120 in Pennington County.
- 126 in Roseau County.
With cases steadily increasing, Borgen said residents have to be careful with their activities and behavior.
"People have to make the determination if what they're going to do is a high-risk activity or a low-risk activity," Borgen said. "Being around a small group of people is going to be better than being around a big group. Being outside is going to be better than being inside. Having social distance is better than clustering. We're also continuing to encourage people to wear masks around other people."
The federal government has informed states that doses of the coronavirus vaccines could be ready later this fall. With vaccines expected in the coming months, Borgen said her department is making preparations.
"We expect that any vaccine will come through the state health department," Borgen said. "We are working on getting our vaccination plans freshened up for how we may see the vaccine. There are still unanswered questions, such as how we handle temperature control.
"We fully expect the initial doses will go to healthcare workers, which is where they need to go," said Borgen. "Then, after that, we need to have a plan in place for whether we get small amounts at any one time or if we get a larger amount. We're trying to make sure our plans are mobile enough so we can effectively and efficiently get that vaccine out.