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County’s positive cases decreasing

NEW ULM — Positive COVID-19 cases in Brown County are decreasing after the surge seen in November.

In November, Brown County Public Health was reporting an average of 39 new COVID cases each day. During the first week in December, the case counts dropped to 29 new cases a day.

Public Health Director Karen Moritz said these numbers are not great, but are stabilizing from the highs seen in November.

“We are encouraged by these numbers and hope people are following guidelines,” Moritz said.

The reduced rate could be contributed to Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order closing bars and restaurants to public dining. Moritz said the virus cannot spread as easily if families are not together in groups.

Last month, public health officials were concerned the Thanksgiving holiday would create a surge in new cases from families dining together. At this time, Brown County has not experienced a surge. Moritz said Public Health was not seeing large numbers from Thanksgiving, but any transmission occurring during Thanksgiving would present within two to 14 days. The two-week cutoff from Thanksgiving is Dec. 10.

The county may avoid surge numbers from Thanksgiving, but the Christmas holiday is still a concern. Moritz said public health is worried about Christmas.

“People are less likely to miss out on gathering for Christmas,” Moritz said. Health guidelines will likely advise against large gatherings, but if families do gather on Christmas, they are advised to keep celebrations small, to immediate family.

Christmas shopping is not as immediate of a concern. Moritz said shopping has not been a high source for virus transmission. This is because everyone is wearing a mask in stores and up-close contact with people is quick. If people decided to holiday shop in groups, Public Health advises keeping the group to immediate family.

Overall, Brown County’s COVID numbers are in line with the state average. New COVID cases have dropped, but unfortunately, COVID-related deaths have gone up. Brown County reported its 16th COVID death Sunday. Of the 16 deaths reported in this county, 13 occurred in the last month.

“With the community, widespread COVID did reach the long-term care and congregate living facilities,” Moritz explained.

From the beginning of long-term care, congregate living and nursing homes were quarantined to protect the most vulnerable, but after seven months, the virus was made it into these facilities.

A vaccine for COVID might be available shortly. Moritz believes the vaccine would be available in the county by January, but it would be limited to certain priority groups at first. The state is expecting to get more information on when the vaccine will be available by the end of the week.

The COVID vaccine is not available to the public yet, but the influenza vaccine is available. Public Health is encouraging everyone to get a flu shot this season. Cases of the flu have already been reported regionally.

Moritz said not many in Brown County historically get the flu shot. At best, 36% get the vaccination each year. With the ongoing pandemic, it is important to keep flu numbers down.

Public Health will hold a free drive-thru flu vaccine clinic Saturday, Dec. 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Brown County Community Service building, 1117 Center St.

The vaccine is free, but an appointment is required. It can be made by calling (507)-233-6820.

Those six months and older are eligible for the flu vaccine.

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