COVID-19 cases increase in Brown County

Karen Moritz, Director Brown County Public Health

We face a critical juncture in the pandemic. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are once again increasing in nearly all states, fueled by the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, which is much more contagious than past versions of the virus. The Delta B.1.617.2 variant is now the most prevalent in the United States and in Minnesota. As we head into the fall and kids go back to school, we need to do everything we can to reduce a new wave of COVID-19 infections. The highest spread of cases and severe outcomes is happening in places with low vaccination rates.

Across the state including in Brown County, COVID-19 infections have significantly increased in the last few weeks. Minnesota has seen a 150% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the last two weeks. In the month of June Brown County had five confirmed cases of COVID-19. In July we had 18 cases with an additional three hospitalizations. As of Aug. 6, Brown County has had five cases so far this month. As the Delta variant continues to spread the case rate is likely to rise in Brown County.

What we know about viruses and what we know so far about COVID-19 is that vaccination is our best defense at reducing the transmission. They are also easy to access and free.

COVID-19 vaccines are very effective, but no vaccine is perfect. In some instances, fully vaccinated people will get COVID-19 and may be contagious. These are called “vaccine breakthrough cases.” The Delta variant can lead to breakthrough infections. This means that while vaccinated people are much less likely to get sick, it will still happen in some cases. As the number of people who are vaccinated goes up, the number of breakthrough cases may increase, but the vaccines remain highly effective. The vast majority of the COVID-19 cases are among the unvaccinated.

Brown County Public Health along with healthcare providers and local pharmacies have the COVID-19 vaccine available for anyone age 12 years or older.

Brown County Public Health has COVID-19 clinics every Thursday from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. and have all three vaccine products available. You can make an appointment online at www.co.brown.mn.us/covidvaccine, by calling 507-233-6803, or just walk in at 1117 Center Street, New Ulm during those hours on Thursdays. Brown County Public Health does not charge anyone for the COVID-19 vaccine or for the administration. We will also have vaccination available at the Brown County Free Fair on Saturday, August 14 and at the Sleepy Eye End of Summer Celebration on Saturday, August 21.

So far 61.5% age 12 and over in Brown County have been vaccinated with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. We need to raise that up to at least 70% of those 12 and over to be fully vaccinated to reduce transmission and prevent illness and death.

Keep your masks handy. Masking is making its way back into our everyday life. With the more transmissible Delta variant it is important to once again wear a mask in some settings to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Masking is highly encouraged when these circumstances exist.

Anyone who is not fully vaccinated, including children ages 2 and older, should continue to wear well-fitted face masks in the following settings:

•Indoor public settings

•Around people from other households

•Outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained

Even fully vaccinated individuals should wear a masks in public indoor settings in communities with substantial or high transmission. The level of transmission for counties is found on the data tracker at https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view. Counties are designated either at low, moderate, substantial, or high transmission. The tracker is updated every day at 8 p.m. As of Aug. 6 Brown County was at a moderate level transmission.

•Where there is a high risk of COVID-19 spread or complications from COVID-19 infection, such as schools, health care settings, homeless shelters, and correctional facilities.

•If persons are immunocompromised or at an increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19. People who are at increased risk for severe disease include older adults and those who have certain medical conditions such as diabetes, overweight or obesity, and heart conditions. Immunocompromised people, even if fully vaccinated, should talk to their health care providers for other specific recommendations.

•If you live or frequently interact with someone who is immunocompromised, not fully vaccinated, or at an increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19.

There are some employers, organizations, and businesses that are putting masking indoors back into practice so be prepared in case that policy is in place at places where you go.

We also request everyone in our community, besides getting vaccinated and wearing a mask as indicated above, to follow these additional recommendations to prevent illness and keep our most vulnerable safe:

•Stay home if you are ill

•Get tested if recommended. This helps us better understand diseases affecting our community.

•Wash your hands frequently, and especially before touching your face or eating.

•If you have a positive COVID-19 test please stay home and isolate for 10 days

•If you are a close contact of someone with a known positive COVID-19 test please monitor for symptoms and get tested at 3 to 5 days. It is still highly recommended that those exposed should quarantine for 10 to 14 days and the 14 days is recommended if it is a household contact.