Unvaccinated pockets in state population remain at risk for COVID-19’s impacts
A cluster of COVID-19 cases in Cass County has spread to Crow Wing County, where health officials found 18 new cases in the last two weeks. Despite efforts to provide vaccinations to area residents, health officials are concerned the cluster will continue to grow if more residents do not take preventive measures such as getting vaccinated or, if not vaccinated, wearingmasks in public and practicing social distancing.
The Cass County cluster now includes 29 cases with specimen collection dates between May 12 and June 11. So far, officials have found 15 cases in Pine River, 9 cases in Backus, 2 in Longville, one in Pequot Lakes, one in Motley and one in Pillager. Six of the cases have been hospitalized, and one person has died. The cases range in age from 5 to 74, with a median age of 50.
The 18 cases in Crow Wing County residents include 11 cases in Brainerd, with 3 cases in Breezy Point, 2 in Baxter, one in Merrifield, and one in Pequot Lakes. Specimen collection dates range from May 8 to June 3. Two of the cases have been hospitalized, but to date there have been no deaths among the Crow Wing County cases. Overall, these cases range in age from 15 – 80 years with a median age of 61 years.
Among the total cases in both counties, 5 attended the same Mother’s Day celebration and are believed to have been the source of infection for several other cases in the clusters. However, health officials said the fact that only some but not all of the new Crow Wing and Cass County cases have ties to earlier cases suggests that community spread is occurring in the area.
Most of the cases in the clusters attended gatherings, school or social activities while infectiousor were exposed to infectious people. The cases in the Cass and Crow Wing clusters are all of the P1 or Gamma variant, the variant first identified in Brazil. Statewide, Minnesota has seen an increasing number of P1 variant cases, with a total of 476 to date.
While Minnesota continues to make progress in beating back COVID-19 and vaccination levels continue to rise, Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said the risk of COVID-19 disease still exists for those who are not vaccinated and in those areas of the state where vaccination rates are low.
“We’re in a new phase of COVID-19 in which we can expect outbreaks of illness among pockets of unvaccinated people,” Commissioner Malcolm said. “The lower vaccination rates of some counties in greater Minnesota make this risk particularly concerning there.”
Crow Wing County Public Health will be offering COVID-19 vaccine at community events including Bean Hole Days in Pequot Lakes on July 14 and the County Fair August 3-7. For more details on vaccine opportunities in Crow Wing County go to https://crowwing.us/