Cases of COVID-19 continued to spike around the state of Minnesota over the past week, including in Aitkin County.
As of Monday morning’s Minnesota Department of Health update, Aitkin County had 520 confirmed cases of the virus, with 13 deaths.
The rise in cases over the last few weeks prompted Gov. Tim Walz to install new restrictions on the number of people at gatherings.
Minnesota bars and restaurants must stop serving at 10 p.m. and attendance at weddings, funerals and social gatherings will be limited under new restrictions Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday to try to slow the accelerating spread of the coronavirus.
The new rules, which took effect Nov. 13, are aimed at young adults, ages 18 to 35, who are often carriers of the virus without showing symptoms and are among the primary spreaders in the state.
While young adults don’t usually get very sick with COVID-19, they can transmit the virus to people who do. The new limits will kick in shortly before college students return home for Thanksgiving, a popular time for reunions with friends.
Restaurants and bars will still be allowed to offer takeout and delivery service after 10 p.m. But the new rules will ban sitting at the bar and activities that involve standing — such as pool, darts and dancing — because they encourage patrons to gather closely together. The changes target people who mingle without masks after too many drinks.
Minnesota’s guidelines currently limit private social gatherings to 10 people in a home and 25 people outside. The new limit is 10 inside or outside. The state is recommending that indoor gatherings be limited to three households, which would affect big family Thanksgiving dinners.
Weddings and funerals, which health officials say have also been significant sources of contagion in Minnesota, will be capped at 50 people as of Nov. 7, and at 25 as of Dec. 11 to allow for a phase-in period, since many events have already been planned.
Walz told reporters on Monday that it makes more sense to target places where young adults congregate, rather than impose a blunt statewide stay-at-home order, as he did in the early days of the pandemic.
Aitkin County Public Health Supervisor Erin Melz commented on the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday in terms of travel and gatherings, saying there is risk any time people from separate households interact with each other, which is true when families gather for holiday celebrations like Thanksgiving.
“Per the most recent executive order, it is recommended that no more than 10 people gather from no more than three households,” Melz said. “Even in this circumstance, masking and social distancing from one another would add additional precaution.
“People should not gather if they are feeling ill and good hand hygiene is always recommended,” she added. “Additionally, people intending on gathering could consider testing for COVID-19 and quarantining until results are received and, if negative, continue quarantine until the gathering time. If results are positive, individuals should be isolating themselves from others.”
In addition to the continued recommendations of washing hands, staying apart, wearing a mask, staying home if ill and seeking testing if needed, Melz also reiterated the advice to get a flu shot.
“Demand for flu shots is high,” Melz said, adding that the department has given about 20% more immunizations so far than last year. “Influenza activity across the state is low. However, Aitkin County has seen a few positive case.”
The flu vaccine is still available through Aitkin Public Health.
Breaking down the last two weeks, the county has seen more than 250 new cases.
As of Friday, Aitkin County had seen between five and 35 new cases each day between Oct. 31 and Nov. 13.
The majority of those days saw 10 cases or more, and three of those days had more than 20 new cases per day.
The cases by age are as follows:
• Ages 1-10, 4 cases
• Ages 11-20, 15 cases
• Ages 21-30, 20 cases
• Ages 31-40, 27 cases
• Ages 41-50, 26 cases
• Ages 51-60, 30 cases
• Ages 61-70, 41 cases
• Ages 71-80, 32 cases
• Ages 81-90, 16 cases
• Ages 91 and over, 9 cases
TOWN HALL MEETING
Riverwood Healthcare will host a virtual town hall Thursday, Nov. 19, from 2:30-3 p.m., with Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Taylor. Real-time data will be provided to participants. The link for the meeting can be found by going to the notice on Riverwood Healthcare’s Facebook page.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.