by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to make headlines and impact lives in 2021.

Nicole Ruhoff, public health manager with Sherburne County Health and Human Services, described the year as unprecedented and overwhelming at times.

2021 began as new COVID-19 vaccines were being rolled out. Just days before the new year began — on Dec. 29, 2020 — 105-year-old Laura Nadeau was the first resident of the Guardian Angels Care Center in Elk River to get the vaccine.

Sherburne County Public Health received its first 200 doses of the vaccine on Dec. 23, 2020, and began vaccinating law enforcement officers, firefighters and others in clinics at the county government center in Elk River.

The vaccine rollout continued in earnest though county public health, clinics, pharmacies and other entities as the new year unfolded.

By February, 89-year-old Virginia Barnier, of Elk River, was getting her first dose of the vaccine at Kemper Drug in downtown Elk River. She said it was an emotional experience.

“This is history,” she said at the time. “People all over the world need a shot, and here we are in little ol’ Elk River and I was called to get one of them.”

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases locally ebbed and flowed over the year. By November, Minnesota had the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the nation, and cases were also surging locally.

“What we’ve seen, particularly since August on, is an increasing number of cases,” Ruhoff said in an interview earlier in December.

There were 655 cases among Sherburne County residents in August, 1,295 in September, 1,637 in October, 2,757 in November and 1,148 as of Dec. 14.

As 2021 came to a close, the total number of COVID-19 cases among Sherburne County residents since the start of the pandemic stood at 20,480, with 144 deaths.

Vaccination efforts continue to unfold.

As of Dec. 28, 56% of Sherburne County residents ages 5 and older have had at least one vaccine dose. Statewide, that number is 72%.

“There are places that are less than us, but we’re still pretty low,” Ruhoff said.

She said she is pleased that progress is being made in vaccinating children. The number of children ages 5 to 11 in Sherburne County who have received one dose of the vaccine has climbed from 2% in November to 14% as of Dec. 19.

To find COVID-19 vaccine locations, search online at find my vaccine.

To find COVID-19 testing locations, search online at find my testing.

Despite the challenges posed by a pandemic, Ruhoff noted that the year was not without silver linings. She said she knows of lots of examples of people supporting each other in the midst of the pandemic — from people dropping off food for those who were ill, to co-workers covering for someone at work, to people finding information for those who needed it.

“Even though we might hear about the negative, there has been so much positive and good humanity throughout this last year,” Ruhoff said.

2021 marked the second year of the pandemic. The first U.S. laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States was from samples taken on Jan. 18, 2020, in Washington state.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

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