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County records third death from COVID-19

BROWN COUNTY — Brown County Public Health has reported another death from COVID-19 over the weekend. This brings the total number of COVID death’s in Brown County to three.

Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) restriction, the identity of the deceased cannot be given, but the individual was in their 40s.

Over the weekend, Brown County had a spike of 18 positive COVID cases. Over 60 new cases were reported in October alone. Brown County has reported 263 positive COVID tests since the start of the pandemic. This means 24% of all positive COVID test in Brown County were reported in the last two weeks.

Brown County Public Health Director Karen Moritz said the increase is comparable to the state rate. All of Minnesota is seeing the same pattern of increase. Early in the pandemic, Brown County saw few increases in positive cases because of the stay at home orders, but as the community started to open up the numbers of positive cases increases.

“People are attending regular events not necessarily wearing masks,” Moritz said. As other large gatherings are hosted the numbers will climb.

Brown County Public Health is tracking positive cases by the community but is not releasing numbers at this time. Moritz was concerned that if positive tests were reported for each town it would be easy for citizens to identify the patient. This could violate HIPAA regulations. Moritz also felt identifying the specific city of positive cases would not benefit the county in terms of mitigating the spread. She did say the positive cases tended to be in the higher population communities. The larger cities, like New Ulm, had a high positive test rate.

Recently, the New Ulm girls’ soccer team had to end its season early after a player contracted COVID-19. The player tested positive over the weekend and had recently been on a bus with players from all three high schools in New Ulm. All 42 people on that bus will need to quarantine until October 23 and cannot return to school until October 26.

Contact tracing has been difficult in Brown County. Moritz said no one event has led to new cases. The spread of the virus is so wide that determining where an individual caught it is unknown.

Some positive cases have been reported through the schools, but Moritz said they are not seeing a higher transmission rate in schools compared to other areas of the community.

The positive test cases in Brown County are relatively low compared to some neighboring counties. Nicollet and Watonwan County have twice the number of positive COVID cases, but the virus is spread across county lines.

Public Health is assuming there is a greater number of people infected with COVID than is currently being reported. People who have the virus might not be aware of it. A person experiencing mild or no symptoms can still spread the virus. Moritz said the number of people testing positive without symptoms is between 17% and 20%.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell.

Anyone testing positive for COVID must isolate for a minimum of 10 days and must be symptom-free for at least 24 hours before leaving isolation. A person who has been in close contact with anyone testing positive should quarantine for 14 days. The reason for the two-week quarantine is if individuals are going to develop symptoms from an infection it is within 14 days of contact. Moritz said even if a person tests negative on day five, that same person could test positive on day 12.

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