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County sees 4 COVID deaths in last 2 days

BROWN COUNTY — Over 1,000 positive COVID-19 cases have been reported in Brown County and the death toll has risen to 10 as of Friday. The four most recent deaths occurred in the last 48 hours.

These grim statistics come from the Brown County Public Health, which continues to report high rates of virus infections.

Monday saw the highest increase in the county since the pandemic started with 65 positive cases. Friday came close to tying that record with 61 positive cases.

Unfortunately, Thursday, Nov. 19 set a different county COVID record: the most COVID deaths in a single day. Three people died from the virus Thursday. Another person died Friday, bringing Brown County’s COVID deaths to the double-digits.

These cases are not unique to Brown County. State-wide COVID cases have been spiking and were a leading factor in Gov. Tim Walz’s decision to order a shutdown of restaurants, bars and fitness centers.

Brown County Public Health fully supported the decision to dial back opening restaurants and bars. Public Health Director Karen Moritz said “COVID is fairly widespread in the county and this the only way to stop it. It is sad it affects businesses and people who work there.”

Locally and statewide, hospitals have been seeing greater traffic because of the surge. Public health has reported the number of hospitalizations it can confirm, but Moritz admitted the information on total hospitalization for COVID was based on incomplete data.

Public Health calls all new positive COVID patients, but many are not hospitalized at the time of the call or are unable to answer the call because of the hospitalization.

This gives the impression Brown County has a low hospitalization rate, but countywide medical facilities are seeing greater traffic. Some facilities like New Ulm Medical Center are also seeing patients from outside of Brown County.

The spiking COVID numbers have created a backlog of check-ins. Usually, public health makes a call to each new positive COVID case to give the individual information about isolation and how long to remain in isolation. However, with 50 to 60 new COVID cases every day, public health is not able to contact every person on the list in a single day. As a result, many people testing positive for COVID cases are not receiving isolation instructions for a few days.

Moritz said a person with COVID must isolate for 10 days after experiencing symptoms. Anyone in close contact with a person testing positive for COVID needs to quarantine for 14 days. This person should also inform their employer or school of the quarantine.

The 14-day quarantine should start the day after the last contact with a COVID positive person. Brown County Health has a COVID calendar on its Facebook page explaining the isolation/quarantine procedure.

Public health is not releasing the COVID numbers by individual city, but Moritz confirmed the virus infection rate is proportional to community size. New Ulm is the largest community in Brown County and has the highest COVID numbers.

There is a concern that COVID numbers could climb even higher during the Thanksgiving holiday. Moritz said Public Health is asking people to stay with their nuclear family for the holiday to avoid spreading the virus.

“We’re definitely seeing transmission in small family gatherings,” she said. Even people who do not feel sick should avoid family gatherings. In Brown County, about 25% of positive cases are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.

Moritz said unfortunately the new shutdown is the only real option for preventing spread. Limiting indoor dining to small groups was not enough to prevent the spread. Moritz said she did not blame the establishments or the patrons. Socializing in groups is part of human nature.

She said the new regulations and guidelines was heartbreaking because it does prevent people from being social, which is normally a healthy thing for people to do, but with COVID it is too dangerous.

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