Health officials say Hubbard County’s confirmed COVID-19 case count “continues to rise rapidly, with rampant spread throughout all communities causing concern among state and local officials,” according to a news release.

As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24, the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed 1,000 cases and 22 deaths in the county.

CHI St. Joseph’s Community Health Director Marlee Morrison said there are 105 active cases. “County residents are currently hospitalized, both in and out of the county,” she said in the release. “Our local hospital and long-term care facilities are working through significant staffing issues due to COVID isolation and quarantine, along with a steadily increasing demand for clinical care and hospital beds both in our county and around the region.”

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm sent a letter this week to all counties with a positivity rate of over 5 percent, including Hubbard County which has had a two-week positivity rate of 17.7 percent, as of Nov. 4.

Malcolm noted that a positivity rate of over 5 percent indicates the spread has reached a concerning level, and higher rates of virus transmission in the community increases the risk for all residents, including those who work or live in long-term care facilities.

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Because Hubbard County’s positivity rate is over 10 percent, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living centers cannot allow visitors beyond essential caregivers and end-of-life care. This increases isolation for residents, which presents risks for physical and mental well-being, said the news release, along with adding incredibly challenging staffing issues, as an outbreak severely limits those who are available to work.

The news release further states schools are also facing challenges, saying school districts have had to make choices for the safety of their staff and students, while continuing to provide a safe education for the youngest county residents and managing an increased amount of sick calls from students and staff, isolation and quarantine requirements, plus stringent mask and social distance requirements within the schools.

Morrison urges the public to help reduce community spread. “Complying with mask requirements and gathering requirements is the first priority – we see that once the virus is introduced at a social gathering, it travels quickly through all households,” she said. “Wearing a mask may feel like a personal choice, but that mask protects not only yourself, but someone else who is vulnerable to the worst effects of the virus. If you are at risk, stay home as much as possible and look for help from your friends and neighbors, or community health. These requirements may feel burdensome, but we won’t be wearing masks for the rest of our lives. Wearing them now and following other social distance and hygiene requirements will help us save lives and keep our community going.”

Hubbard County Board chair Char Christenson said, “The Hubbard County Board understands and supports the importance of personal freedom and liberty; however, COVID-19 is now impacting all aspects of our community. We all have a friend or family member, or even have personal experience, with the detrimental effects of this illness. We are asking the community to do their best to follow the guidelines set forth, and to reach out to their own health care provider or to community health for information and guidance when needed.”

CHI St. Joseph’s Health Community Health is the public health agent for Hubbard County, and has been working in collaboration with local, regional and state partners in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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