Recent case numbers are a reminder that COVID-19 continues to circulate in the community.

Horizon Public Health has identified a significant increase in the number of positive COVID-19 confirmed cases in portions of its five-county service area, including Douglas County.

The current increase is similar to trends noted in the fall of 2020, at the early stage of a significant spike in cases, health officials noted.

On Thursday, April 1, 22 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Douglas County, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health. That's the biggest one-day jump since Jan. 8. Deaths attributed to COVID-19 remained at 70 in the county for the 24th straight day.

Horizon Public Health is urging everyone to make safe choices by choosing to limit the number of people you gather with and using outdoor spaces when available.

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"Our individual actions impact our community," said Ann Stehn, EMPA, PHN, administrator of Horizon Public Health. "Gatherings of a variety of kinds are continuing to contribute to current transmission rates. The bottom line is please stay vigilant."

Stehn added that residents are getting tired of the message, but in order to reduce transmission of the virus people need to:

• Stay home when sick.

• Wear a mask, especially if everyone has not been fully vaccinated.

• Watch social distances.

• Wash your hands often.

• Participate in testing and contact tracing procedures.

• Choose to get vaccinated as soon as you can.

As of Tuesday, March 30, all Minnesotans over the age of 16 are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine.

"Getting vaccinated is, simply put, the best protection we have and an important tool that can help stop this pandemic," Stehn said.

People are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 two weeks after their second dose of vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or two weeks after they get a single dose of one dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson).

"All of these vaccines have proven to be extremely effective at preventing hospitalizations and death from COVID-19," Stehn said. "While younger adults have lower rates of severe disease, they are the highest spreaders in many communities. COVID-19 vaccinations will help stop the spread of COVID-19 to the most vulnerable."

Horizon Public Health will continue to hold public COVID-19 vaccination clinics in all five counties it serves. For more information on locations, dates, times about vaccine clinics, as well as information on the COVID-19 statistics data dashboard visit Horizon Public Health's website.

The Minnesota Department of Health also has a "Find My Vaccine" tool where you can search for vaccination sites based on city or zip code. You can find that tool on the Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website, or Horizon Public Health has a link on its website.

If you have additional questions or need assistance navigating vaccine or any COVID-19 questions you can call Horizon Public Health’s COVID 19 helpline at 320-763-6018 or 800-450-4177, press option 3.

"While we appreciate the sense of release and optimism that is in our sight, the fact that COVID-19 confirmed cases are on the rise remains a real and present risk," Stehn emphasized. "Please do everything in your power to keep yourself, and those around you safe and healthy."