By Tim Douglass, originally published in the Pope County Tribune, September 13, 2021
A predominate COVID-19 strain called the Delta variant is proving to be highly contagious and is causing an uptick in positive cases in Pope County as well as throughout Minnesota and the nation.
According to testing results at Glacial Ridge Health System (GRHS) in Glenwood, 112 new positive cases of COVID-19 were recorded during the month of August with the positivity rate jumping close to 15 percent. The last time the positivity rate was that high was in March and April of this year before many were vaccinated. Since April, the positivity rate in tests done at GRHS had steadily decreased through June and started to climb slowly in July before increasing dramatically in August as the Delta variant moved into the area.
In Minnesota, there were 1,250 new cases of COVID-19 reported for Thursday, Sept. 9 by the Minnesota Department of Health. There were nine deaths on that day. As of last Thursday, 7,874 Minnesota residents died from COVID-19 since the coronavirus that causes the disease turned up in Minnesota in early 2020.
Dr. Tom Haus, a physician at GRHS, said last Wednesday that hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients went from zero to six in just one week. “We admitted three (Sept. 5) and they are on high volume oxygen machines. They are very sick,” Haus said.
This latest surge in COVID-19 cases is also making it difficult to find hospital beds available in the region and throughout the state, so transferring patients is very difficult. Most of the hospitals in this region are already at full capacity, Haus explained. He said he had tried last week to find a bed for a patient at three larger regional hospitals, but they were not accepting any more COVID-19 patients. St. Cloud Hospital saw a surge two weeks ago that was attributed to the Sturgis motorcycle rally and were at full capacity, Haus said.
Although the surge in new cases, especially among the unvaccinated is an issue, a shortage of nurses and other staff at hospitals is also contributing to the problem.
If the surge continues, Haus said GRHS as well as many other hospitals “could easily be overwhelmed.”
The highly contagious Delta variant is circulating mostly among unvaccinated individuals, Haus said. Those hospitalized locally were individuals who were not vaccinated. The same is true in other regional hospitals. Haus provided information from Sandford Health hospitals that showed that in just two days there were 20 COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Sanford Health and all but one were not vaccinated.