CDC studies Clay County infant COVID death

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Public health director Kathy McKay says the U.S. Center for Disease Control is looking closely at the case of a 9-month-old Clay County infant who died last week of COVID-19.

The health director updated the Clay County Commission on the current status of the pandemic during its regular meeting Tuesday. She noted that the area infant is believed to be the youngest confirmed case nationwide – an anomaly in the course of a disease which has caused few deaths among children and no other among those under 1 year.

She reminded commissioners that only basic information can be shared to protect the family’s privacy, explaining that the baby died at home of respiratory symptoms. The virus was confirmed after its death. “This is an isolated and very specific situation,” she said, noting that the tiny victim had no apparent underlying conditions. “The CDC and medical examiner are looking closely at physiological symptoms. It’s a sad case – very unfortunate,” she added.

She reported that 602 of the 669 confirmed cases in the county since the pandemic began have recovered or are out of isolation. The loss of the infant last week brings total deaths to 39.

Commissioner Jenny Mongeau questioned the health officer about the anticipated impact of the upcoming influenza season during the pandemic. McKay answered, “If we’re going to be dealing with influenza as well as COVID, the situation will be very challenging. As children develop respiratory symptoms, some physicians are saying they expect an increase in calls from parents. It’s going to make the situation more complicated.”

Commissioner Jim Haney asked McKay why the COVID-19 case fatality rate – the number of deaths divided by the confirmed caseload – appears to be “almost twice as high” in Clay County as the rest of Minnesota. That number now stands at 5.8%, compared to 3.2% for the entire state, 3.7% nationwide, and 4.2% worldwide. He theorized it might be because of the higher percentage of elderly residents. McKay said she would research and return with the answer.

In regular commission business, the board heard presentations on 2021 budget requests from technology services director Tim Dent, social services director Rhonda Porter and county attorney Brian Melton.

Melton noted that the county will begin tackling the backlog of trials delayed during the pandemic on Aug. 21 or Aug. 28. The department’s plan to protect the health of jurors, defendants, attorneys and judges, he said, has been approved by the district; staffers are now working on implementing those measures, which include distancing in the courtrooms. He said only one trial will be conducted at a time; the schedule may, however, go to two a week, with the second on Thursday and Friday.

“We’re trying to close the backlog,” he said. “A lot of cases are hanging.”

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