The coronavirus and its mutations are still a threat in Douglas County – so much so that even those who are fully vaccinated are recommended by public health leaders to wear a mask in public, indoor settings.
In the past few weeks, Horizon Public Health has seen a jump in the number of new cases in its communities.
On July 15, the five counties Horizon Public Health serves, including Douglas County, had a combined total of nine active cases. As of July 29, there are 47 active cases.
The Delta variant was relatively non-existent in Minnesota a few short months ago and now accounts for over 85% of new cases.
“This variant has quickly become the dominant strain circulating, which is concerning because it is known to spread twice as easily from person to person,” said Ann Stehn, administrator for Horizon Public Health.
Currently, the COVID-19 vaccines (Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer) authorized for emergency use in the United States remain highly effective at preventing people from getting symptomatic or severe COVID-19, Stein said.
“Breakthrough infections happen when a person gets infected with the virus, despite being fully vaccinated. This still impacts only a small percentage of the total number of people who are fully vaccinated,” Stehn said.
To put this in perspective in Minnesota, breakthrough infections currently account for less than 0.1% of the population in comparison to the more than 3 million doses that have been administered.
“The good news is that these people usually have mild infections,” Stehn said. “The news from the CDC (last) week is that there is early evidence that individuals who develop a breakthrough infection with the Delta variant, can become infectious and spread it to others – a scenario that we were not seeing with earlier forms of the virus.”
As a direct result of the Delta variant’s increased ability to spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations last week for fully vaccinated people:
Fully vaccinated individuals, with a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, should be tested 3-5 days after exposure and should wear a mask for 14 days when in public indoor settings or until they receive a negative test.
Individuals who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask when in public indoor settings when in an area identified as having “substantial” or “high” community transmission. As of July 31, Douglas County is considered to have "substantial" risk. Stevens, Pope and Otter Tail counties were all identified as "moderate" risk and Grant County is considered "low" risk. There are two indicators that are being used in determining the transmission of the virus in a community. These indicators include the percentage of cases testing positive, in addition to the total number of new cases per 100,000 people. To put this into perspective, if your county is color-coded orange (“substantial” transmission) or red (“high” transmission), the CDC now recommends that you wear a mask indoors. This information and more can be found on the CDC COVID Data Tracker website: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view or on Horizon Public Health’s dashboard: https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/331e8f1e549e466ab462508712cce5c6
Lastly, the CDC recommends that fully vaccinated individuals, especially those who are immunocompromised, at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19 or have someone in their household who is immunocompromised or not fully vaccinated, consider wearing a mask regardless of the level of community transmission, given the new evidence of the Delta variant circulating.
“Keeping the health and safety of our neighbors in mind is something we as Minnesotans take pride in,” Stehn said. “Vaccination continues to be the best preventative measure we can take to protect ourselves and our community against COVID-19.”
The vast majority of those getting seriously ill continue to be those not vaccinated, Stehn added. She said people who have not yet received their vaccine should visit their local pharmacy, health care provider or contact Horizon Public Health, 320-763-6018.
“Let’s stop the spread so we can continue our progress forward out of this pandemic,” said Stehn.