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by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

COVID-19 cases are surging in Sherburne County and across the state as the holiday season approaches.

“I think MDH is waving every red flag that they possibly can to slow the spread,” Sherburne County Health and Human Services Director Amanda Larson said of the Minnesota Department of Health.

In an update Tuesday to the Sherburne County Board of Commissioners, Larson said COVID-19 spread is everywhere in Sherburne County. She explained that it took 174 days to reach 1,000 cases in the county, 51 days to reach 2,000 cases, nine days to reach 3,000 cases and just five days to hit the 4,000 case mark.

Larson said the county can’t keep up with contact tracing.

Sherburne County Board Chair Felix Schmiesing said the critical issue is if there will be a hospital bed and staffing available when you pull up to a hospital with a sick loved one.

“It is really serious. We’re really there, and what we do in the next few weeks will make a big difference in the lives of people,” he said.

Commissioner Barb Burandt, a registered nurse, said the situation at hospitals with regard to room availability and other issues has recently changed significantly.

“It’s scary,” she said.

Larson said there currently are 48,000 active COVID-19 cases in the state — three times what there were two weeks ago.

Hospitals and intensive-care units are expected to see a surge in the coming weeks, she said.

Hospitals in Minnesota are currently running at 98% capacity, although not all of that is attributable to COVID-19, Larson said.

In the case of the St. Cloud Hospital, for instance, 47% of its hospitalizations are COVID-19-related.

Vaccine is coming

Statewide, Larson said COVID-19 cases are increasing at an average rate of 8,000 per day and climbing.

“This case rate has far surpassed MDH’s even most conservative projections,” she said.

Larson said Tuesday there have been 231,800 COVID-19 cases and 2,917 deaths in Minnesota so far.

Meanwhile, in-home saliva test kits are now available. Larson encourages people to order them now so they have them on hand if they need them. For more information, go to https://tinyurl.com/yy4rvuhq.

Here’s a case update in Sherburne County as of Tuesday, Nov. 17.

•There have been 4,203 cases of COVID-19 in Sherburne County; 3,571 of those cases are off isolation, 166 have been hospitalized, 45 have been in the intensive-care unit.

•Thirty-two Sherburne County residents have died of COVID-19.

•The highest case number per day was 269.

•There is a cluster of 323 cases at the prison in St. Cloud, which is in Sherburne County.

•Monthly COVID-19 cases in Sherburne County, beginning in July, are as follows: July, 321; August, 297; September, 270; October, 751; and Nov. 1-16, 2,207.

•40% of Sherburne’s cases are in people age 20 to 39.

•Since Sept. 1, the number of Sherburne County school-aged children with COVID-19 has grown by 500%.

The good news, Larson said, is that vaccine planning is underway with widespread vaccination expected in the spring.

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