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Daily COVID cases down in county

Vaccinations continue with health care workers

BROWN COUNTY — Brown County Public Health reported four new lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases Monday.

This is the lowest COVID-19 increase in the county since October.

“We’re very encouraged by this,” Brown County Public Health Director Karen Moritz said, but she said the low number was likely not reflective of virus trends.

The recent snowstorm and Christmas holiday probably kept people from testing even if they were sick. However, Moritz was encouraged that overall state COVID deaths were down with only 13 since yesterday.

As of Monday, Dec. 28, Brown County Public Health has recorded 1,985 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases. Public Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard shows that 54% of these cases are from New Ulm; 25% coming from Sleepy Eye; 12% from Springfield; 3.5% from Hanska and 3% from Comfrey.

Most of the county’s COVID cases were recorded last month. November saw a significant spike in COVID numbers with an average of 34 new cases each day.

This was a statewide increase that led to Gov. Tim Walz ordering a return to previous restrictions. Restaurants and bars were once again prohibited from indoor service to dial back the COVID number.

The dial back resulted in a decrease in Brown County. Case numbers have gone down in December, with a daily average of 20 new cases.

This could represent the light at the end of the tunnel. COVID numbers are decreasing and hospitals are starting to roll out vaccines to employees.

New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) received a supply of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID nearly two weeks ago and began administering it to frontline staff Dec. 22.

The State of Minnesota has prioritized frontline health care workers as the first to receive the vaccine. In the last week, 138 NUMC frontline workers have received the vaccine. Another 82 are scheduled to be vaccinated Tuesday. Around 200 NUMC employees are scheduled to receive the vaccine within a week.

Because NUMC has freezer space capable of storing the vaccine at -70 degree C temperatures, the hospital will serve as a vaccine supply hub for the region. NUMC Manager of Safety and Quality Kathy Thompson said they have sent over 1,000 doses of the vaccine to six other hospitals including Glencoe, Hutchinson, Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield, Sleepy Eye Medical Center, United Hospital District in Blue Earth and St. Peter hospital.

Thompson said the hospitals send people to pick up the doses of vaccine from NUMC on Monday to administer to staff throughout the week. Once the vaccine is removed from cold storage, hospitals have five days to give the inoculation. All frontline staff receiving the vaccine must receive a second follow-up shot 21 days after the first shot.

Public health workers are also among the first to receive the vaccine. Moritz said by Tuesday, 20 of Brown County Public Health staff will have received the Moderna vaccine. The Moderna vaccine requires a second shot after 28 days.

Moritz said as health care workers continue to receive the vaccine, public health will begin scheduling vaccinations for long-term care facilities next week. Pharmacies are also expected to assist with long-term care facility vaccinations.

Other groups within the first tier to be vaccinated include first-responders, assisted living groups and people in urgent care and group home workers.

Based on the amount of vaccine being received in Brown County, Moritz said all health care workers in the county should receive the first vaccine shot by mid-January. This is dependent on maintaining the same supply of the vaccine. The amount of doses received could change from week to week.

“Right now we’re pleased with the vaccine we have received,” Moritz said.

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