Clay County Covid-19 Update

Karen Newman

“Generally speaking, we are doing pretty well,” reported Kathy McKay, Clay County Public Health Director, as she briefed the June 16 meeting of the Clay County Commission regarding the local status of the COVID-19 pandemic.

McKay presented pandemic information current to June 15, 2020.  The number of active Covid-19 cases in Clay County is currently 15 as compared to 26 the week of June 12.  McKay emphasized the number of active cases could rise as contact tracing is conducted for the current active cases.

The first report of a Clay County resident diagnosed with Covid-19 occurred on March 16. 2020.  To date, there have been 506 active cases in the county.  Of those patients diagnosed with the virus, 455 no longer require isolation. 

McKay regretfully reported that 36 county residents have died from Covid-19.  She said, “We don’t want to minimize death and it’s tough on family and others to have any death from Covid.” Noting that the Minnesota Covid-19 death toll is declining, she continued, “Although the number [of deaths] is less than in many other areas, we still recognize that’s significant for friends and family.”

Director McKay provided local testing site information to the commission.  The Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota National Guard conduct Point Prevalence Testing in nursing homes and other congregate care facilities. Point Prevalence Testing is an epidemiologic tool to assess the number of people in a group with a disease or condition. The testing requires intermittent testing of those who were found to be negative for the virus in the first round of testing. She said that Point Prevalence Testing is conducted in 7 to 14-day intervals.  Clay and Cass Counties, with the help of the National Guard, are cooperating to staff static Covid-19 testing sites where congregate care facilities may set up appointments for staff drive-through testing.

Mass testing for all citizens of Cass and Clay Counties was held June 11 with 878 tests conducted.  June 12 found 903 citizens tested. These tests are free to Minnesotans and North Dakotans. Mass testing is projected to continue June 18 and 19.

McKay emphasized that she and her staff carefully analyze trending data to be alert for possible Covid-19 active case increases.  She noted that in states which opened prior to Minnesota, the trends appear to show that community spread, lack of social distancing and not wearing masks leads to increased active case numbers.

Minnesota’s Department of Health is working on directives for the reopening of educational institutions.  A Clay County Public Health staff member is meeting with local higher education officials to determine the safest way to resume classes in the fall. McKay reported that health experts predict an upswing in Covid-19 cases at that time. She said that based on reports from experts, it is unlikely there will be a vaccine for Covid-19 by the time schools reopen.

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