The number of COVID-19 cases in Douglas County climbed to 774 on Thursday, Oct. 29, a jump of 40 cases in one day, which is the county's biggest one-day surge since the pandemic began.

The county also had one more confirmed death from the virus, raising the death toll to four, according to data released by the Minnesota Department of Health. The health department did not have any data on the latest death.

The surge in cases, 142 in the past week, prompted Horizon Public Health to urge the public, once again, to do all they can to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"The virus is spreading at faster rates around the country, in the Midwest and here in West Central Minnesota," said Ann Stehn, administer for Horizon that serves Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens and Traverse counties. "Our cases have significantly increased during October and we are now approaching 200 active cases at any given time in our five. counties."

Stehn stressed the importance of everyone doing their part to fight the virus.

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"We are all connected, by our health, by our actions and by our commitment to each other," she said. "We need your help."

As the weather gets colder and people move indoors, the risk for transmission increases, Stehn noted.

"While we are waiting for a vaccine, we are not ready yet to relax our preventative measures," she said. "Fall has been cut short, winter has arrived and we are needing some bright spots in our lives to find a way to get through these times."

Everyone has had to make many adjustments during 2020 because of the pandemic, Stehn said.

"We also know is that is takes a supportive community, strong role models, and everyone working together to keep as many things going as we would like," she said. "We need to find the balance of living life fully, while also protecting the ones that we love, and those we may not even know, from a virus that doesn’t discriminate."

Horizon Public Health is seeing transmission of the virus as a result of a wide variety of activities, according to Stehn.

"Everything from social and family gatherings, events, sports, workplaces can contribute to an exposure, or exposing someone else to the virus," she said.

Horizon Public Health is asking everyone to consider applying these "best practices" in their daily lives:

  • Stay home when you are sick. "This is critical and an area where we fail occasionally," Stehn said. "Admit it, we have all tried to 'carry on' even when we are sick. Now is NOT the time to do this."
  • Mask up – all the time when you are with people outside your household. "Make it a habit," Stehn said. "It makes others feel safer and they are more likely to wear one too."

  • Limit your interactions and the time you spend with others, especially if you are high risk.
  • Consider your activities and daily routine. "In the past few months most of us have dramatically increased our interactions and exposure. Occasionally we get too comfortable (and frankly we are a bit tired of all of this) and let down our guard. Where has that been happening in your life? Make a commitment to getting back on track and supporting others trying to do the same thing."
  • Don’t frequent places where you don’t feel safe. "Leave – it sends a message," Stehn said.

  • Take care of your mental and physical health. "This virus is wearing on all of us," Stehn said.

As a society, people are trying to balance many things right now, some of which, Stehn said, are not easily compatible with each other.

"We probably all agree that we want our kids in school, an open economy and to have the virus contained," she said. "Our best chance is to have the majority of people setting a strong, consistent example for how we can safely interact and not spread the virus."

Horizon Public Health ended the news release with a final plea:

"We are asking you for your help," Stehn said. "Be a role model. Stay home if you are sick, mask up, wash your hands and give others compassion and a grace during these trying times. Now is the time to make a safe plan for how you will handle the upcoming holidays. Wouldn’t it be great to have a surge of kindness spreading across our community rather than the virus?"

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