Last week, COVID-19 claimed its youngest victim in Douglas County since the pandemic began nearly two years ago.

The victim was between the ages of 30-34, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health. (Except for the age range, health officials don’t release any other information about the victims, citing medical privacy.)

No one can begin to imagine what that 30-34-year-old’s family is going through, facing the giant hole that loss will leave. A life was cut way too short, not even half-lived, but gone because of a deadly virus that some people believe doesn’t even exist.

Let’s learn something from that unnamed person’s death. Let’s take this virus more seriously than ever. It is, after all, not over yet. It’s still out there, circulating in our community, mutating, looking for more lives to take.

The numbers, though as cold and flat as a gravestone, show just how strong COVID’s grip continues to be in our area.

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As of Nov. 11, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in Douglas County totaled 7,079 – up 301 cases from a week ago, and up 957 cases from a month ago. A total of 98 people in the county have died from COVID. That’s up 10 from a month ago.

Cases have also climbed in nearby counties. Here are their numbers now compared to last month: Grant – 888, up 128; Otter Tail – 9,007, up 1,252; Pope – 1,858, up 335; Stearns – 30,823, up 3,009; Stevens – 1,473, up 274; and Todd – 4,515, up 673.

The combined death total of Douglas and those six other counties now stands at 544.

Active COVID cases in Douglas County remain stubbornly high. Since the start of the month, active cases have ranged from 225 to 272, according to data from Horizon Public Health.

Douglas County’s vaccination rates are inching up, but there is still room for improvement. As of Nov. 9, the percentage of people aged 5 and older who have received at least one vaccine dose was 58.9% – 8.5% below the statewide average of 67.4%.

There are also chilling trends happening statewide. State health officials reported another Minnesota school staff COVID-19 death in a weekly update issued Thursday, Nov. 11, bringing the number of staff deaths since the first week of September to eight. One student has died from COVID-19 complications since the beginning of the school year.

Across the state, 16 staff and two students have died from COVID-19 cases associated with pre-K through 12th grade schools since the beginning of the pandemic. The figures include public, private and tribal schools.

In a statement, teachers union Education Minnesota described the deaths as tragic and called for the state health department to release anonymous summary data on deaths and hospitalizations tied to schools to help educators make better safety decisions.

But this isn’t all doom and gloom. There’s some light ahead and a way to fight this thing before it claims more lives.

Together, we can greatly reduce this stubborn fourth wave of the virus. Get vaccinated. Get a booster shot, if you qualify. If you’re experiencing any symptoms – such as a fever, trouble breathing, fatigue, loss of smell or taste – get tested. If you’re told to quarantine, quarantine. Don’t spread misinformation. Don’t take COVID lightly. Remember the 30-34 year old and all the other lives that have been lost. They’re not just figures on a stat sheet.