The year 2021 has begun, but 2020's problems haven't been left behind. In a report to the McLeod County Board Jan. 5, Health and Human Services Director Berit Spors said that while the increase in cases is not as high as seen in November and December, it’s still a health concern.
"I'm glad the numbers are lessening day over day," she said, "but I am concerned what our numbers after the holiday time will show, after we've had a few weeks. ... We'll watch those numbers closely.”
As of Jan. 11, the county had reported 3,155 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic and 41 deaths contributed to COVID-19.
The county's 14-day rate of new cases per 1,000 residents also fell Jan. 7 to 51.64 for the weeks of Dec. 13-26, and it was anticipated to continue falling. The drop in new cases means county schools are preparing for changes to their learning models. According to information from Hutchinson Superintendent Daron VanderHeiden, elementary students in kindergarten through fifth grade will return to in-person learning Tuesday, Jan. 19. Secondary students in sixth through 12th grade are planning to begin hybrid learning Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Spors also expressed concern about restaurants reopening this week with restrictions and limited capacity. She cautioned people to continue following mitigation recommendations such as maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and regularly washing hands. Anyone who feels sick should stay home and be tested.
"We have to dial it back at some point, but we need to be smart and make good decisions," she said.
Every city in McLeod County has had COVID-19 cases, with the most (42%) in the largest city, Hutchinson, followed by Glencoe with 25% of cases. This past week, the county was working with two businesses that had clusters of COVID-19 cases. A month ago it was working with eight. All long-term care facilities have been connected with a COVID-19 vaccine pharmacy.
The county's Health and Human Services building is being prepared for use as the COVID-19 vaccination clinic site. Public Health will administer vaccinations following state guidance, but it presently has limited doses intended for nurses who will vaccinate others, COVID-19 testers, and local emergency medical services staff. Spors said it's still unclear when vaccines will be widely available for the public. Once medical personnel are vaccinated, more will be needed for group homes, older residents and teachers.
"It could be awhile until the general public is able to see a vaccine," Spors said.
On a call with the Minnesota Department of Health, Spors learned it could take six months to have everyone vaccinated.