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By Cara L. Dempski
HUDSON – On February 2, the St. Croix County Board of Supervisors heard updates on how Public Health is working to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus known as Covid 19. Ellie Klassen and Kelly Engen explained the state classifies St. Croix County virus activity as high level. Engen elaborated that the average age for active cases in the county is 41. Klassen said the information presented on the Public Health website data dashboard indicates the active cases are split pretty evenly between male and female patients, with a higher number belonging to the Hispanic and Latino communities.
The pair from Public Health said the county has now surpassed 7,500 cases, with 18% of tests returning positive; there have been 45 deaths. Engen said the state and county are using risk indicators determined by the Harvard University School of Public Health, which places St. Croix County in the category for accelerated spread of the virus, even though data indicates cases are declining in the county.
One public commenter spoke early in the meeting and said she did not believe the low number of flu cases reported so far this season was reflective of efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Klassen and Engen indicated that in St. Croix County the flu cases reported to public health are the ones that require hospitalization, which might account for the low number of reported cases.
The Public Health duo said County residents can complete a form on the website to request a vaccination appointment. Appointment requests will be fulfilled and scheduled when the person requesting vaccination meets the vaccination’s phase criteria.
According to Engen, she and Klassen are still meeting with officials in county clinics and hospitals on a weekly basis; she also said many health care facilities are starting to notify patients about the availability of the vaccine.
Engen also said vaccination phase 1. B. has a tentative start date of March 1. Engen indicated there is no issue with obtaining vaccines at the moment.
Supervisor Dave Ostness asked if Public Health is receiving the requested number of vaccines.
The Board heard from county communications director Adam Kastonek that he and his staff sent out the first mailed newsletter about the virus a few weeks ago, with the assistance of the Aging and Disability Resource Center to determine the best way to reach the people who needed the information. Kastonek indicated a second newsletter will be mailed out by the end of the week starting February 8. He opted for a mailed newsletter because he recognizes not everyone has access to email or the Internet. He informed the Board he plans to work closely with other county departments to get the message out.
Supervisor Tellijohn asked Engen and Klassen if County clinics and hospitals whose organizations are based in Minnesota are receiving their vaccines from Minnesota or Wisconsin. He was told that if clinics and hospitals are physically located in Wisconsin, that is where their vaccines are coming from.
The Board moved on to the administrator’s report from there. Administrator Ken Witt explained the county’s finances at the end of 2020 looked good in part because the sales tax numbers exceeded expectations for the year. He explained that was likely the case because people were shopping online from home instead of going into Minnesota to shop.
Next, the Administrator and Supervisors discussed the plan to return to in-person meetings at the end of June.
County Clerk Cindy Campbell briefly summarized her activities in 2020; she and her staff, and municipal clerks administered five elections during the year. She said the state elections commission got county clerks involved in virus safety during elections by sending the clerks cleaning supplies to distribute to municipalities and asked for help in assigning National Guard units for assistance during elections. Campbell estimated there was an 85 percent voter turnout for the November 3 general election.
After Campbell concluded her report, the meeting adjourned, and Supervisors were reminded the next meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on March 2.