On Nov. 16, six days after 19 year-old Shelby Hinsch of Goodhue County died from COVID, the Minnesota Department of Health held a press conference to discuss the latest virus information with three leading professionals.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Education Commissioner Heather Mueller and Dr. Sheldon Berkowitz, president of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, were in attendance.
The following topics were examined.
According to Berkowitz, weekly positive cases from schools are at their highest in almost four months. Over 175,000 persons younger than 20 have contracted the virus since the pandemic started and four have died.
Shelby Yvonne Hinsch, 19, died due to COVID-19 complications on Nov. 10. Hinsch was a Red Wing High School graduate and enjoyed swimming, riding ATV’s, playing basketball, camping and fishing, according to Red Lake Nation News.
“This has been incredibly devastating amongst our community,” Red Wing School Board member Nicky Buck said.
In light of recent cases, Mueller said that it’s more important than ever to double down on protecting one another and keeping our school communities as safe as possible.
“We need all of our schools to implement key mitigation strategies so that children and school staff are not put at undue risk,” Malcom said. “We are all beyond tired of this pandemic, but it is clearly not even close to over. We must take this pandemic seriously and prioritize our children's health and education so they can continue with in-person learning. To give our schools the best shot at that we recommend the use of multi layered mitigation strategies.”
The mitigation strategies include:
Staying home when sick
Voluntary screening of unvaccinated individuals
Contact tracing and quarantining
Notifying system when positive cases occur
Additional layers of protection such as hand washing and covering coughs
“I'm incredibly grateful for the work of our school leaders, educators, staff, students and families that they have done throughout the pandemic to ensure that our school buildings are safe,” Mueller said.
“Overall hospital beds, staffed hospital beds to be specific, are extremely tight,” Malcom said. “1% of staffed beds are available in the metro region and only 4% in the southeast . . . ICU beds are even tighter, with only 2% of ICU beds available in the metro and 4% in central and southeast Minnesota regions . . . Currently, there are no pediatric hospital beds available in the northwest or south central regions of our state and no pediatric ICU beds available in the central region.”
According to the CDC, there are 481 positive cases in Goodhue County with 11 new hospitalizations as of Nov. 18. In local clinics, 16.78% of beds have been used for COVID patients in the last seven days.
“In better news, we now have 70.5% of all Minnesotans aged 12 and up who have completed their vaccine series,” Malcolm said. “When we add in the population down to age 5, which is just as you know, recently eligible in the last 10 days or so, we have nearly 64% of that expanded population, 5 and up, who have completed their vaccine series.”
In Goodhue County, 28,026 people are fully vaccinated, which is 60.5% of the entire population, according to the CDC.
“We've been monitoring the national conversation around booster doses very closely over the last few weeks and especially some significant developments in just the last few days,” Malcolm said. “The data remains clear that all three COVID vaccines are very effective, especially at preventing serious illness and death. The evidence is also increasingly clear that boosters for all adults given at the appropriate time from the primary vaccination series can help to strengthen that protection longer ... Given the alarming surge of COVID cases that Minnesota is facing, and as we now head indoors for the winter and gather for the holidays, this booster protection is particularly important and timely.”
To find out if you are eligible for a booster shot in Goodhue County, visit www.co.goodhue.mn.us/1399/COVID-19-Vaccine-Information.
For Pierce County, visit covid-piercecounty-wi.hub.arcgis.com/.
Firsthand COVID experience
I’ve been reporting on the coronavirus pandemic for a little over a year now, covering the height of the pandemic in fall 2020, the introduction of community testing centers and the approval of the vaccines.