During the Roseau County Board of Commissioners August 24 meeting, Sue Grafstrom, the county’s Homeland Security Emergency Management Director, highlighted how COVID cases, particularly the Delta variant, are increasing in the county. She also highlighted other COVID topics.
Speaking about the recent COVID cases, Grafstrom said she hadn’t yet received the COVID case numbers from last week, but based on her latest report, she discovered that the county saw about 15 cases last week and 20 the week prior. The two prior weeks before that saw numbers at 15 and 12.
“There are more cases than we’ve had all summer long. It is the Delta variant. That is been confirmed that it’s in every county now up in the Northwest,” Grafstrom said. “And at some point I have heard that it’s (Delta variant) 90 percent of our cases.”
Of note, the county had done 154 Canadian travel COVID tests, but as Grafstrom explained those weren’t the only tests happening in the county at that time. LifeCare was processing approximately 60 to 74 tests per day
“They were doing a little bit of travel testing because they had people signed up,” Grafstrom said, “but they were doing so much testing because of symptoms on people. And so that was about the time that our surge happened or our outbreak happened again.”
She added how in this situation it was “critical” to keep the travel tests away from the hospital and maintain access for those individuals who really needed to get into the hospital to see if they had COVID.
Grafstrom explained how a majority of these increased COVID cases being the Delta variant is concerning given this variant is more transmissible.
“It’s hitting the unvaccinated. So if you see things about the kids being harder hit by the Delta variant, that is true,” Grafstrom said. “It passes more easily between adults to children, whereas… the original COVID did not. So we did not see kids passing it along or picking it up from adults quite as often.”
This Delta transmissibility also concerns Grafstrom, given schools are preparing to begin and team practices have begun.
“They’ve been given guidelines on how to separate out,” Grafstrom said, “ (and) encouraged to use pods, that sort of thing.”
Grafstrom did touch on the mask issue. She highlighted the federal requirements that those on buses have to wear masks. She added how students don’t have to wear them while playing. When students return to the classroom, unvaccinated individuals are recommended to wear masks.
In an August 26 Tri-County School Board story in the North Star News, the school’s Superintendent-Principal Michael Gadbois reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Minnesota Department of Education are saying that schools should mask up, but are leaving the issue within local control.
“If you have adults and children that have not been vaccinated, they recommend that you should,” Grafstrom said, “and none of the schools in our area, to my knowledge, have adopted a mask mandate for any of their students. It’s all optional.”
Both the Badger and Greenbush-Middle River schools are moving forward without mask mandates at this time.
Grafstrom believes they will see more cases of students getting COVID in school— within their classrooms and between their peers. This contrasts with last year’s situation that saw no reports, Grafstrom said, of transmission within the classroom or school building.
“We couldn’t really trace any cases to that. This year, that will not be the case,” Grafstrom said. “… You’re going to probably see classes that will probably get half of their kids out with COVID. So we’re in a much different spot than we were.”
Last year’s situation saw people separate and mask up, leading to other infectious diseases decreasing. As of late, Grafstrom reported that cases of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), a childhood viral infection, have increased.
“There’s just going to be a lot of that going around where everybody felt healthy last year,” Grafstrom said, “because of all of these guidelines that we were following. This year, there isn’t that.”
Going back to the Delta variant, Grafstrom highlighted the upcoming forecast.
“I have heard that the surge is supposed to be over up in this area in about the middle to the end of September,” Grafstrom said.
Asked about the booster shots at this August 24 meeting, Grafstrom reported how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC had not yet formally said it was time to get a booster shot.
“It’s coming. I believe it is coming because they’re seeing some decreases in antibodies for people that would be more than what is it eight months past their second dose, eight or nine months,” Grafstrom said. “It’s still really early on, but your doctor will tell you when it’s time and that’s where you’re going to get your booster this time.”
As reported in an August 25 Greenbush-Middle River School Board story in The Tribune, those families interested in more info about vaccines, such as locations and dates, may contact Roseau County Public Health/LifeCare Medical Center at the following number: 218-463-3211.
The GMR District is offering a COVID vaccine clinic on September 20 at the school, with the second dose three weeks later. The vaccine would be Pfizer, as it can be given to children 12 years of age and older. According to numerous news reports, the U.S. FDA had fully approved the Pfizer vaccine on August 23.
To see the complete story, read the September 1 issue of The Tribune in print or online.