ST. LOUIS COUNTY — The third confirmed case of COVID-19 in St. Louis County was located Wednesday as statewide cases rose to 287 and county officials urged people not to flock to northeastern Minnesota amid fears of spreading the coronavirus.
St. Louis County and the Minnesota Health Department confirmed the third case, a woman in her late 30s who is currently recovering at home, according to county officials. Her infection is linked to domestic travel and not community transmission. Still, Amy Westbrook, division director for St. Louis County Public Health, said the assumption is that the virus is being passed through communities.
“Testing remains limited,” Westbrook said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “We’re suspecting that we do have a community transmission in all communities of St. Louis County.”
As with the previous two cases, the county officials didn’t specify a location, citing patient privacy and state reporting rules.
With domestic travel links established and improving weather, counties have started sounding the alarm on visitors to the Northland, including cabin owners and snowbird residents returning home for spring.
Cook County issued a warning urging tourists and visitors to avoid the scenic areas around Grand Marais in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. That county includes rural areas that don’t have ICU beds, meaning a severe case would need transportation to a neighboring county.
St. Louis County Board Chair Mike Jugovich, of Chisholm, echoed the same message, saying it was a tough ask of second-home residents and those looking to take advantage of the area’s recreational opportunities.
"Anyone coming into our county from somewhere else risks bringing the virus with them," Jugovich said at the press conference. "That includes people coming to spend time at their cabin or favorite rental getaway spot, and even snowbirds coming home. Please pause and ask if this is really the best time to travel. We all need to do our part to stop the spread of this virus."
He continued: "It's not that we don't want you. It's that we want to get through this health crisis and this is another one of our avenues to ensure safety for our residents."
The first confirmed COVID-19 case in St. Louis County was reported last Saturday and the second this past Monday.
The Minnesota Department of Health has reported that 287 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state and one death. Of those cases, 122 no longer need to be isolated. More than 11,000 tests have been completed at the state's public health lab and at private laboratories.
Anyone with questions regarding identifying symptoms or whether testing is needed can call Essentia Health at 1-833-494-0836 or St. Luke's at 218-249-4200.
Non-clinical questions, such as preventative steps to take or anything travel-related, can be directed to the St. Louis County Public Health information line at 218-625-3600 or the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-3920.