Health officials believe COVID-19 is circulating in Hubbard County

Limited testing is likely reason for no known positive cases, CHI St. Joseph's Community Health Director Marlee Morrison tells Hubbard County Board.

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Hubbard County Emergency Manager Brian Halbasch and CHI St. Joseph’s Community Health Director Marlee Morrison updated county commissioners about COVID-19 during a remotely held board meeting Tuesday.

Halbasch said he has a personal protective equipment (PPE) request into the state government for 500 masks. “Unfortunately, with the high demand of those worldwide, I don’t believe that will be fulfilled in a timely manner or at all,” he said.

As of April 6, “I was happy to hear that Minnesota has the slowest infection rate in the nation,” Halbasch continued. “We still do not have an active, confirmed case in Hubbard County.”

Morrison added, “We have, anecdotally, had reports of illness that seem to coincide with the COVID-19 symptoms. Testing has been so limited that I think that might be leading to why our numbers are still at zero.”

“Test collection is increasingly more available in our community,” she said. “The turnaround time kind of varies.”


Morrison said the Sanford Health Park Rapids Clinic has drive-through testing for those who are symptomatic. Essentia Health and CHI St. Joseph’s Health strictly follow Minnesota Department of Health guidelines regarding who can be tested, such as healthcare workers, those with a known exposure to COVID-19 or those living in a long-term care setting.

Morrison praised Hubbard County residents for modeling social distancing “beautifully."

Even though there is no known COVID-19 case in the county, Morrison stressed “that we believe it is circulating in our community and people need to follow those social-distancing guidelines.”

The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program is considered an essential service, Morrison added, and is primarily being done by phone. The FATHER Project is also meeting virtually.

CHI St. Joseph’s Community Health is offering help to people in the city who are having trouble ordering groceries and getting them delivered. Residents can call 218-237-5464 to make arrangements.

“When a case is diagnosed in our county, we will be required by the state of Minnesota to ensure that they have essential services provided while they stay in their homes during quarantine,” she said.

Halbasch was on deputy patrol last weekend and noticed an influx of lake residents.

“I think we’re getting a lot of people that are migrating up to their lake cabins,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of cars parked at cabins that I know haven’t been here all winter. … I would assume our population is going to slowly start to grow, especially with the Easter weekend and some of the snowbirds might be slowly coming back to lake country.”


Later on Tuesday afternoon, CHI St. Joseph's Health posted a message on their Facebook page recommending that "all seasonal residents and snowbirds who ordinarily retreat to their summer vacation homes, cabins and recreational property stay home and close to your primary care provider at this time. All of us at CHI St. Joseph’s Health love our residents and abundance of visitors in the summer who enjoy this beautiful community and vacation destination with us, but as your health care provider, we feel it is important to share this message to help protect the health of the community."

CHI St. Joseph's also advised, "If you snowbird somewhere and are returning to the Park Rapids area, it is important to quarantine for 14 days and to be on high alert for symptoms."

The state of Minnesota has a new website ( ) with compiled data on the pandemic situation in the state. It includes what to do if you are sick, the state response, and most recent data on hospital numbers, etc.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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