Clay County COVID-19 update

Karen Newman

 Immediately after being honored for twenty years of service to Clay County, Public Health Director Kathy McKay updated the county commission about local COVID-19 news at their September 1 meeting.  There have been 880 cases in Clay County to date, while Minnesota cases are at 75,864.  The county’s pandemic death toll remains at 40.  McKay continues to warn about fluctuating numbers in state and local COVID-19 data. She says that the results of testing are not always available on the same day that tests are performed which skews numbers.  Accurate data for the FM metro is not readily available because the community is a border city.

Commissioner Kevin Campbell noted that from April 15, 2020 to the end of May, 35 Clay County COVID-related deaths were recorded.  For June-August, 2020, only 5 deaths were reported. He asked, “That is encouraging news. Is that because you got a handle on the cognitive care facilities?”

McKay replied, “The long-term care deaths were really large spikes; as they got a handle on that, they did come in and do testing. They ramped up their protocols as well.”

Clay County Nursing Director Jamie Hennen reminded the commissioners, “At that time, there was a shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and testing was not readily available.

County K-12 schools continue to use the county’s 14 Day Case Rate/10,000 people numbers to determine whether they are able to offer in-person instruction with safety guideline adherence.  Clay County’s rate currently stands at 7.32, well under the cutoff point of 10. Clay County Public Health reports this data to the schools weekly.

McKay reports 10-11 cases of COVID in the higher education institutions in Clay County to date. She warned that higher education numbers may increase, “Students want to socialize and they are far from home.”

McKay summarized Dr. Deborah Birx’s August 29 visit to the FM area.  Birx is the White House Coronavirus Coordinator who visited the area because of concerns about the growth rate in COVID-19 cases in the Midwest.  The doctor declared that it is the individual’s responsibility to:                               

·       Wear a mask

·       Socially distance

·       Avoid large crowded events

·       Stay home if feeling ill

·       Stay home till testing results are confirmed

Hennen noted that at a teleconference with the Minnesota Department of Health, officials said that random checks at businesses are finding that generally employees are compliant with coronavirus guidelines, but customers are not.

McKay presented the Public Health Department’s request for $339,261 CARES Act funding from the Emergency Preparedness allocation.  She explained that preparedness is the basis for the proposal. She reports the COVID-19 vaccination will probably involve an initial dose and a booster. She said, “Get your flu shot and then you will be ready to get your coronavirus shots when they are available.”   

Planning for mass dispensation of a coronavirus vaccine when it is developed and approved needs to be done in advance.  Proposed expenditures include pharmaceutical-grade refrigerators to safely house vaccine and flu vaccine, PPE, drive-through tents, transport vehicle, medical equipment for mass testing sites, equipment for safety at the Detox Center, mailing expenses, baby scales and specialized equipment for outdoor home visits. 

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