Aitkin County Health and Human Services Public Health Supervisor Erin Melz confirmed Aug. 6 that the county is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Aitkin County has had a total of 1,416 confirmed cases of the virus, though the county has no confirmed cases of the Delta variant that has been making headlines.

A breakdown of recent virus activity, according to Melz:

• There were 19 new cases posted in June during a three-week period

• From mid-June to mid-July, there were no new cases.

• From mid-July through the end of July, there were 13 new cases – and from Aug. 1 through Aug. 6, there were another 14 new cases.

“Although the Delta variant has not been confirmed in Aitkin County, it has been in Carlton, Itasca, Lake and St. Louis,” Melz explained. “This is not to mean it is not present in Aitkin County. It likely is. We should assume that it is possible to be exposed to a variant anywhere in the state.”

Melz added that not all specimens can be tested for the Delta variant, not only because of lab capacity but because technology cannot always sequence the specimen.

News on the vaccine front is better. As of Aug. 6, 56.9% of residents 12 or older had at least one dose of the vaccine, with 77.9% of those 65-plus with at least one dose.

Melz said the county continues to offer vaccination clinics on a weekly basis. Although county COVID-19 cases are not at the peak rates they were last fall, she added that the county has seen a modest increase.

“The increase is concerning and not something we are taking lightly,” she said. “Vaccination is the best strategy we have to reduce community transmission and getting back to normal activities, including keeping kids in school.

“Aitkin County continues to monitor the data, metrics and trends very closely while also partnering with Riverwood Healthcare Center, community vaccine providers and all three school districts to maintain situational awareness for our communities.

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