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Increase in COVID cases spurs call to get vaccinated at Bemidji City Council meeting

At the Bemidji City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 4, Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota and Beltrami County Public Health officials notified local leaders about the rise in coronavirus numbers and encouraged residents to get vaccinated.

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As of Sept. 29, there were 15 people hospitalized for COVID-19 at Sanford Bemidji and Bagely Medical Centers, with four COVID patients in the ICU. (Courtesy / Sanford Health)

BEMIDJI -- Private and public health officials both encouraged more people to get vaccinated Monday during a report to the Bemidji City Council.

During the Oct. 4 meeting, Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota President and CEO Susan Jarvis and Beltrami County Public Health Director Megan Heuer both shared the latest data on the pandemic. In either case, numbers are rising.

"As of today, we had 328 active COVID cases and last Friday we were at our highest active case count since the pandemic began with 359," Heuer said. "In the last two weeks, we've had 539 new cases. We're also seeing younger kids now in our active cases, as they're making up about 30% who are testing positive. That makes sense since they're the biggest group that's unvaccinated. We know that this is a disease of the unvaccinated."

At the Sanford Bemidji Medical Center, Jarvis said there were 15 patients hospitalized, with 12 being unvaccinated. Of those 12, four are in the ICU.

"Cases are high, but the good news is that even though cases are high, because our senior citizens have been doing a great job in getting vaccinated, the number of hospitalizations are not as high as last November when our surge was," Jarvis said. "However, there are still enough hospitalizations to really strain the system, and there are many that could be prevented with vaccinations."


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Monthly totals of COVID-19 inpatient admissions from March 11, 2020, through Sept. 29, 2021, at the Sanford Bemidji Medical Center. (Courtesy / Sanford Health)

At the height of last year's surge, 120 were hospitalized in Bemidji during November. The 15-patient level was fairly consistent over September. Comparatively, the Bemidji hospital had about one to two COVID patients in June earlier this year.

Across the state as a whole, Minnesota has had 38,347 hospitalizations. Since the pandemic began, 725,451 Minnesotans have had the coronavirus and there have been 8,203 deaths. Locally, Beltrami County has recorded 5,871 total cases.

"We're still encouraging everyone to do all of those things everybody is tired of hearing about," Heuer said. "It's the best defense. Social distancing, hygiene, getting tested if you're exposed, wearing masks and getting signed up for a vaccination. It's a safe and effective vaccine. It can keep you out of the hospital and we can get back to a semblance of normal quicker. As long as there are people who are unvaccinated, the virus will mutate and get stronger."

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Weekly totals of COVID-19 tests from March 11, 2020, through Sept. 28, 2021, at the Sanford Bemidji Medical Center. (Courtesy / Sanford Health)

In Beltrami County, 21,227 people have received one dose, and 20,107 have completed the vaccination series. At the state level, 3.41 million Minnesotans have received one dose and 3.24 million are fully vaccinated.


In addition to COVID, Jarvis said it's time for people to consider flu shots, too.

"Another thing we're really focusing on is the flu," Jarvis said. "We want people to get the flu vaccine, with people being out and about now. You can get the flu vaccine and COVID vaccine at pretty much all of our clinic locations."

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