In Ely, “More” COVID cases

Number unknown, no increase reported at Ely-Bloomenson

by Tom Coombe
The Ely area has seen an increase in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19, but further details are murky.
While Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital reported Monday that there have been no increase in cases locally for two months, physician Joe Bianco of Essentia Health - which operates Ely’s clinic - reports some growth.
“We have seen more cases,” said Bianco. “It’s difficult to give a quantity because some people get tested and other entities which we don’t have records to and there’s no central place for Morse Township or Ely so I can’t give you can exact number. But there are more cases.”
Bianco, however cautioned that the current hike was anticipated, and not cause for alarm.
“It’s not like we’ve seen an exponential rise,” said Bianco. “We’re not a hot spot. We completely all expected to see cases. ”
Patti Banks, interim CEO at Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital, said Tuesday that while there has been no increase in cases at that facility, Ely-Bloomenson would not be aware if a resident or visitor tested positive at another location.
“An individual can go elsewhere, any Essentia Clinic, in Ely or outside of, or any testing site,” said Banks. “EBCH would not be aware of the results of these tests.”
Banks added that “due to the complexities of and the need to respect patient confidentiality, EBCH is not in a position to report numbers. Even if we could report numbers they could be an inaccurate reflection of the number of positive cases. ”To date, the only reported case of COVID-19 in Ely came in May, when an employee at the Ely DQ Grill and Chill tested positive.
St. Louis County officials say the vast majority of cases reported in the county - 305 as of Thursday - have come in Duluth but that it has spread to rural communities in recent weeks.
Statewide, 1,561 people have died and nearly 49,000 COVID cases have been reported, but deaths have slowed considerably in July while hospitalizations and intensive care cases have plummeted by more than 50 percent since peaking in late-May.
Both Bianco and hospital officials have emphasized taking precautionary measures to slow the spread of the virus.
“The question is can we control how many cases we have,” said Bianco. “And how you control it, the best way is by social distancing, most of all social distancing, not sharing air inside, outside it’s not as big a deal. You can mitigate it with masks but it’s really big gatherings inside.”
“Persons who do test positive for COVID can frequently recover at home,” said Banks. “. Like we have been hearing, the largest defense we have with mitigating the spread of COVID is to stay home when you are not feeling well, wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer and wear a mask.”
Wednesday (see related story), Gov. Tim Walz mandated that people wear masks indoors in public places.