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Hubbard County seeing surge in COVID-19 cases

FSA coronavirus CDC
Special to The Forum

Hubbard County has experienced a swell in the number of COVID-19 cases over the last month, according to Marlee Morrison, CHI St. Joseph’s Community Health Director.

She provided a coronavirus update to Hubbard County commissioners on Tuesday.

On Monday, there were 309 positive cases, but by Thursday morning it had risen to 346.

“They’re rolling in pretty fast,” Morrison said, “so we’ve increased over a 100 cases since last week, which is in line with the state. The state is up 10,000 cases as well.”

Surrounding counties – particularly, Beltrami and Cass – have also “seen large upticks in their COVID positives.”


For comparison, Morrison pointed out that Hubbard County’s first cases were in May. “We had two cases,” she said. There were 3 in June, 23 in July, 18 in August, 93 in September and 169 in October, thus far.

Three are currently hospitalized, Morrison said, with 40 active cases. “We’ve had quite a few going in and out of the hospital throughout the weeks.”

Hubbard County’s positivity rate from Oct. 1 to Oct. 14 was 14 percent, “which is well above the state average,” she said.

The county’s 14-day case rate, which is used by school districts to determine which learning model to institute, posted at 39.31 on Oct. 15. However, Morrison said that is only based on cases through Oct. 3. “When I run numbers, currently our rate for Oct. 4 through Oct. 17 ran about 57.34,” she continued.

County commissioner Dan Stacey asked if school districts can proceed with in-person instruction at their own discretion.

“This has been an ongoing hot topic,” Morrison said, adding that the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education issued “guidance” for reopening schools. Going forward, schools have discretion to follow the recommendations based on the number of cases within the school and within the county.

Morrison said she provides case rate information to each school district in Hubbard County as well as Walker-Akeley-Hackensack.

Stacey asked if COVID tests are still free, noting that he recently had to pay a $193 bill for his test. “I’m just wondering why I got a bill,” he asked.


Morrison said her understanding is that COVID testing should be covered by health insurance 100 percent. It was recommended that Stacey call his insurance company and health care facility’s business office.

Stacey inquired if influenza cases are appearing.

“We have not seen a lot of flu activity starting yet in Hubbard County,” Morrison said, nor has it been reported across Minnesota at this point. “We expect it to any time.”

County commissioner Tom Krueger said he would be getting out of quarantine on Wednesday.

County commissioner Ted Van Kempen said he was isolating after a co-worker tested positive for COVID-19. “I had what I would guess would be mild symptoms,” he said. “I went in and got tested. I got my test results back yesterday and it was negative.”

Van Kempen said the clinic advised him to quarantine for another 10 days, or two weeks from his last known exposure.

Stacey asked if Van Kempen’s employer was reimbursing his lost wages.

No, Van Kempen said, since he works part-time. “I think it would be different if I were a full-time employee.”


Board chair Char Christenson questioned the need to quarantine if Van Kempen’s test result was negative.

Morrison explained, “Unfortunately, you cannot test out of quarantine because you may convert at any time in that 14 days to a positive test. So while you may test negative one day, four days later you might be positive and asymptomatic. The point of that 14 days is to halt that spread because the virus is tricky that way.”

The tests are accurate, she emphasized, for that moment in time.

Christenson said, “I just want to remind the public that those are options. My problem with this is people can be out of work for two to four weeks, or even longer, depending. Quarantining is optional.”

Morrison said she understands it is hardship, and if there was a workplace exposure, she said it is worth looking into some support. “However, quarantine is the only method we have right now to try to stop the spread when we’re seeing increased activity in our community. It’s affected workplaces. It’s affecting hospital staff. It’s affecting school staff.”

Morrison noted that her two daughters are currently quarantining due to an exposure at school.

While isolating cannot be enforced, “but I am concerned about the high rate of virus activity in our community right now. It is making people very sick,” she said.

A second Hubbard County resident died from COVID-19 last week. Morrison said he was in his early 60s. It was unknown whether he had any preexisting conditions.


Vaccination supplies

Morrison also submitted a request for CARES Act funding from the county “in anticipation of the vaccination that we’ll be expected to do when a vaccine for COVID-19 is available, understanding that CARES Act dollars only go through the end of the year. However, we have concerns about the ability to procure vaccine supplies and are going to start to look at ordering those now, due to backordering and increased demand.”

The $3,951 request will be used for staff time and supplies to vaccinate the population of Hubbard County.

The bulk of the money – $2,834 – will directly go toward purchasing supplies for a vaccination clinic, such as Band-Aids, alcohol pads, masks, face shields, gloves, needles, syringes, surgical masks and gauze pads. Morrison said the remainder will be used for 26 hours of staff time planning.

“We are required to write a vaccination plan for the county and submit it to the state by Dec. 4,” she explained.

The board unanimously approved the request.

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  • Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
  • COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
  • Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website .

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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