Covid graph

Darker gray at tops of bars indicate cases requiring ICU Care

*Data for November 2021 is incomplete

Kanabec County is experiencing some of the highest levels of COVID-19 spread in the nation. 

The county currently has the 18th highest case rate  in the United States at 123 cases per 100,000 population. Minnesota itself is a COVID-19 hotpot, second in the U.S. behind Michigan. This is according to data compiled by the New York Times.

“Kanabec County has one of the lowest vaccination rates and highest positivity rates in the state. I don’t think that is a coincidence,” said Kanabec County Public Health Director Kathy Burski.

After a four-month stretch with only one COVID-19 related death, Kanabec County added one death in October and three more in November.

More cases and deaths are a trend local public health officials expect will continue through the holiday season. 

Rising Rates

In November of 2020, prior to the availability of vaccines, Kanabec County recorded its highest level of infection, hospitalizations and deaths. Fast forward to today and the current trend in cases may surpass those of 2020. 

“The two main drivers of increase cases are the Delta variant, as well as Kanabec Counties low vaccination rates, in all age groups,” Burksi said. 

Of particular concern to public health officials is what appears to be a very high rate of virus spread. 

“Positivity rate” is the percentage of coronavirus tests performed that are actually positive. An increase in percentage of positive tests is an indicator of increased virus spread. Kanabec County has one of the highest COVID-19 test positivity rates in the state at 25.08%. 

“We are concerned that case rates will continue to rise as holiday events and family gatherings take place,” said Burski. 

Of Kanabec County residents ages 12 and up, 49.2% are fully vaccinated; the state vaccination rate is 70.5%. 

Effects of Vaccination

The Minnesota Department of Health recently released data about breakthrough cases, hospitalizations and deaths as they relate to vaccinated and unvaccinated groups. In all age groups, those vaccinated were less likely to be infected, need hospitalization or die. (Click on charts below for more data.)

Comparison V vs uv

“The bottom line is that the COVID-19 vaccines work. They are very good at preventing severe disease, hospitalizations, and death,” said Burski. 

However, she said too much false information is circulating for people to make wise decisions about vaccination. 

“Unfortunately, misinformation has been shared recently that indicates those whom are vaccinated can spread the virus equal to those that are unvaccinated. In fact, individuals that are vaccinated are less likely to get COVID-19 and therefore less likely to spread the virus. It is only in breakthrough cases where those that do get infected can transmit the virus. 

“It is important to remember, no vaccine is 100% effective. However, correlation between low vaccination rates, high positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths like we are seeing in Kanabec County highlights the importance of getting vaccinated.”

Hospitalizations increase

The number of Kanabec County residents hospitalized with COVID-19 has reached an all-time high of 33 in October. The previous high was 28 in November, 2020; So far in November of 2021, the county has had eight hospitalizations.

Positivity Rate

“Positivity rate” is the percentage of coronavirus tests performed that are actually positive. An increase in percentage of positive tests is an indicator of increased virus spread. The state of Minnesota uses it to measure weather they consider virus spread to reach their “caution” (positivity rate of 5% or more) or “high risk” (rate of 10% or more) thresholds. 

The seven-day positivity rate for the week of Nov. 4-Nov. 10 and vaccination rates are:

                                  Positivity Rate            Vaccination Rate (12+)

Minnesota                        10-14.9%                     72.7%

Kanabec County             25.08%                        44.2%

Isanti County                    17.73%                       45.3%

Chisago County                 16.31%                       60.6% 

Mille Lacs County               16.28%                       62.1%

Pine County                       10.06%                       50.5%

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