The Mille Lacs County Community Health board held a quarterly meeting on August 20 at the courthouse. Kristine Klopp, formerly a WIC coordinator (a womens, infant and children’s food program) for the County, was appointed as community health services administrator Klopp stated that there has been an increase of COVID cases, specifically the new Delta variant which consist of approximately 95% of the cases in Mille Lacs County.

She said that additional vaccine clinics were again offered with low participation and added that one school polled their staff as to their vaccination status and received many “it’s none of your business” responses.

Commissioner Tim Wilhelm brought up the subject of vaccination booster shots. Klopp stated there is a third dose now available but currently only recommended for the immune compromised and that health officials are saying that a third dose offers about 30% increased efficacy. She added that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still being studied, but officials are not recommending any additional doses for that vaccine.

“We’ve had lots of calls about the booster, and we’ll have to determine when to open it to the public,” said Klopp.

What do the numbers say?

To date, Mille Lacs County has had 3,327 cases and 58 deaths. In comparison, Aitkin County has had 1,464 cases and 37 deaths, Crow Wing County 7,267 cases and 100 deaths, Morrison County 4,439 cases and 62 deaths, and Kanabec County 1,548 cases and 29 deaths. Mille Lacs County specifically has increased since July 7 when positive test rates were at 2-3% to the last recorded week of August 8-14 where 7-10% of tests were positive.

Statewide, according to the most recent Minnesota Department of Health data, cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are down significantly from the peak in November and December of 2020.

During the peak of COVID hospitalizations, which occurred in mid-November of last year, total Minnesota cases hovered around 275-300 admitted to a hospital per day and drastically decreased to approximately 100 admitted per day in mid-December. Hospitalizations peaked again in Minnesota mid-April at around 110 per day and decreased to around 25 per day in late May where they stayed until late July and gradually increased with the onset of the Delta variant to approximately 75-80 cases admitted per day the week of Aug. 19.

Cases requiring an ICU also peaked in mid-November at around 50 total cases admitted per day in the state and again in mid-April at around 40 total people admitted per day then went down to single digits during the summer months of 2021. Currently ICU cases are hovering around 15-20 total people admitted per day since early August.

Mille Lacs County has not seen any new COVID deaths since early August in which there was one additional death.

The current vaccination rate in the state is 67.4% of ages 12 and up and in Mille Lacs County, 47% of ages 12 and up. Of those 65 and older statewide, 92.5% are vaccinated, and for the same demographic, 78% are vaccinated in Mille Lacs County.

Other public health business

In other public health business, Klopp updated the board on various programs that have started again since shutting down during the pandemic. She said the farmers market has begun again where children are given a $2 coupon to pick out fresh produce. Ages 60 and older have been added to the deal, stated Klopp, but added that not much fresh produce has shown up at the markets so they have had to refer people to the Princeton farmer’s market from the Milaca market.

The children’s dental clinic has also started again and the County has received $120,000 from Delta Dental for services to children. “We weren’t allowed to be in schools or clinics during the pandemic, but if schools allow us to come back, we’ll start again,” noted Klopp.

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