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COVID-19 death toll in Beltrami County surpasses 100

As of Dec. 10, Beltrami County has recorded 103 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The number of active cases the Beltrami County Public Health Department is monitoring, though, has fallen in recent weeks.

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BEMIDJI -- Beltrami County has surpassed a grim milestone.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, last week the county surpassed 100 deaths from coronavirus, with the total at 103 as of Dec. 10. Megan Heuer, Beltrami County Public Health Director, said many of them were recorded recently.

"Every death over one is too many," Heuer said. "Thirty-five of our 103 deaths have been over the last three months, so if we look at a 16 month period from when we had our first COVID death through November, 34% of those deaths have been in the last three months. That's a pretty significant statistic."

One of those recent deaths was in the 15-19 age range, as MDH reported a Beltrami County teenager with a pre-existing medical condition died of COVID.

According to the weekly update of virus activity in the state, released on Dec. 9 by MDH, this is the second student who has died this school year of a COVID-19 infection associated with Minnesota schools.

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“This is tragic news and I hope Minnesotans can pull together and do all we can to prevent another student from dying of this virus,” Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, said in a release. “We must stay strong and do all we can do to make school buildings safe places to learn and work.”

The state health department reports three students have died of COVID-19 infections associated with schools since the pandemic began. Eighteen school staff members have also died, including 10 in the current school year. The data includes students and staff in all types of schools -- traditional public, charter and private.

"It shows that this is still a very serious virus," Heuer said. "That's why there's still so much attention spent on trying to mitigate and reduce COVID."

While the death toll has unfortunately continued to increase, Heuer did note how the active number of cases has declined for the county. In late November, Beltrami County was usually monitoring between 375 and 400 cases per day, whereas last week, the number was 216.

The decline in active cases comes after a sustained period of increases in the number of cases in Beltrami County. In mid-June, the county had just above 4,000 cases. Today, the county has recorded a total of 8,508 since the pandemic began.

"Our last really big spike was last November," Heuer said. "We had 560 cases in October, and 650 cases in December, but November spiked with nearly 1,300 cases that month. It was a very sharp bell curve. This one, though, has been more of a gradual increase over the last several months with a sustained high level of cases.

Along with seeing less active cases now, Heuer said another positive trend has been the steady increase of the county's vaccinated population.

"I think we're getting closer to where we need to be," Heuer said. "We're in the low 60% for people who are eligible for vaccines. We still have people who're slowly getting vaccinated and we're very excited to be at the point where there's still interest."

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According to the latest numbers from MDH, posted Dec. 8, a total of 27,018 Beltrami County residents have received one dose and 24,698 have been given two doses. Across the state as a whole, 3.7 million Minnesotans have received one dose and 3.45 million are fully vaccinated.

Heuer said public health is encouraging residents to get flu vaccines as well, as the influenza season gets underway.

"We want people to be as protected as they can," Heuer said. "We also have so many COVID testing options. We want people to celebrate with their friends and family and we're asking if people can get that test first just for that additional layer of protection."

Megan Heuer
Megan Heuer is the Beltrami County Public Health Director.

Related Topics: CORONAVIRUSBELTRAMI COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTHCOVID-19 VACCINEHEALTHBELTRAMI COUNTYNEWSMD
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