Hubbard County’s all-time recorded case count for COVID-19 reached 85 on Monday – an increase of more than 50 percent in under a week.

“This week, we witnessed a record-high, one-day total in COVID-19 cases in Minnesota,” said Kris Ehresmann, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) director of infectious disease and epidemiologist. “While one day does not make a trend, it’s a snapshot of what we were concerned about: that some Minnesotans are waning on their efforts to keep others safe by not wearing masks, not social distancing and engaging in some large events – which is where we see so many outbreaks.”

According to the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic, Minnesota had its highest-ever number of new cases in a single day Sunday at 1,296, putting the state’s all-time total over 90,000. The second-highest day was Friday, Sept. 18 with 1,085 new cases statewide.

Ehresmann added that while known COVID-19 cases may seem low in Hubbard County compared to other counties, the strong surge in numbers – from the high teens at the end of July – shows that community spread is a growing problem in the area.

“We understand many people are experiencing COVID-fatigue,” said Ehresman, “but we encourage everyone to push through it and do the right thing and protect others from possible transmission. By staying steadfast in safety measures, you can help keep our schools open, our elder and vulnerable populations safe, and help reduce transmission in your community.”

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Community spread

As of 11:30 a.m. on Monday, there were 20 active cases of COVID-19 in Hubbard County, though no one was hospitalized, according to Marlee Morrison, community health director with CHI St. Joseph’s Health. At that time, only 83 cases had been reported countywide.

“Hubbard County has seen a big jump in cases over the last week,” she said. “So, we are definitely seeing community spread. The impacts of cases, obviously, are far-reaching, because it’s not only the cases who are home in isolation, but then there’s a lot of people being placed into quarantine, as they had contact with positive cases.”

The county’s reported total jumped from 56 cases on Tuesday, Sept. 15, Morrison said. During the previous week, the case total went up only five cases, from 51 on Sept. 8. Compared to that, the 29 cases reported since Sept. 15 represent a dramatic increase.

“Our numbers are still low compared to other areas of the state,” said Morrison, “and we have a low population.”

In general, she said, health officials are seeing the illness spread in “family clusters, or any kind of gathering. So, if someone has attended any kind of gathering, there can be spread that way.” They are recommending that people avoid large gatherings, wear masks, wash their hands and stay at least six feet apart, she said.

Meanwhile, Morrison said, they don’t know of any particular social gathering where the disease has been transmitted. “It’s been pretty spread out, actually,” she said, “which is also concerning, because it’s not coming from one source. It’s just in the community, so people need to be really careful with their precautions.”

She hinted that the jump in reported cases may be related to the recent Labor Day weekend and the beginning of the school year.

“That’s when people are gathering more closely together,” said Morrison.

Heritage Living Center

Heritage Living Center joined the ranks of congregate care facilities in Minnesota with an exposure from a case of COVID-19.

Heritage Living Center Administrator Kurt Hansen said, “We recently learned that we had our first case of COVID-19, as one our team members tested positive. We immediately notified our team members, residents and family members of this case, began contact tracing, and are working closely with local and state health officials.”

Hansen said the facility will follow all recommended guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

He said, “We have seen an increase in occurrence of the virus in our greater community and have been prepared to manage cases. Heritage has an outstanding team of trained caregivers who are following all safety protocols, and we are conducting regular COVID testing for both our residents and our team members. Our highest priority is the health and safety of our residents and team members.”

Area schools

“The district is a cross section of the community in that if it is there, it will also be here,” Superintendent Lance Bagstad wrote Monday in an update to families in the Park Rapids School District. “We need to be vigilant in our preparedness to change learning models and the actions mitigating the spread of the virus.”

Bagstad reminded families about best practices to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“When a case is confirmed in the district, families and individuals with a ‘right to know’ will be notified as soon as possible,” he said. “If a case does not constitute a risk to the entire district, a districtwide communication will not be sent. In the event of a larger outbreak, the district will follow the Minnesota Department of Health and Hubbard County Public Health direction on when it must notify the community at large.”

Bagstad advised families and students to be prepared for a change in their schools’ learning model on short notice.

Nevis Superintendent Gregg Parks said, as of Monday, their district does not have any lab-confirmed cases.