Covid numbers plummet

Totals at lowest local, county and state levels since last summer

by Tom Coombe
Both in Ely and across the state, Covid-19 case numbers are at their lowest totals since last summer.
Only one area resident tested positive for the virus in the last week, according to data released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Health.
Across St. Louis County, only 680 cases were recorded in March - the first time the total fell under 1,000 since last July and a fraction of the nearly 10,000 cases noted in January of this year.
Similar numbers have been reported statewide, with the MDH reporting about 3,500 active cases on Thursday after reaching a mid-January peak of more than 65,000.
Covid’s retreat has been dramatic since early-2021 and a spike in cases that health officials say was fueled by the highly contagious - but more mild - Omicron variant.
In Ely, weekly cases have fallen into the single digits since late-February.
There was one case reported this week and two the week before, numbers that fall well below those reported in late-2021 and early this year.
In one stretch, local case numbers were 20 or more in 13 out of 14 weeks, twice surpassing 50 and reaching 30 or more six other times.
Covid-19 mitigation measures have also gone by the wayside, with the Ely School District rescinding its controversial indoor mask mandate on Feb. 28.
St. Louis County has fallen into a “low” Covid transmission zone as defined by recently adjusted metrics by the federal Center for Disease Control, and the county has dropped its mask requirement for county buildings.
A mask mandate at Vermilion Community College is also over, while earlier in the year vaccine mandates put in place in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the University of Minnesota were repealed.
In January, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down President Biden’s executive order requiring large employers to implement “vaccine or test” mandates at work.
The changes have come amid steep decreases in Covid-19 prevalence.
In St. Louis County, average daily case counts fell to 21.7 as of April 2, the lowest since last August and down from a pandemic high of over 400 in early-January.
New positive cases in the county went from 9,966 in January to 2,354 in February and 680 in March.
St. Louis County also went from 283 Covid-related hospitalizations in January, the second-highest total recorded during the two-year pandemic, to 122 in February and 46 in March.
During the recent wave health officials revised their guidance, recommending that those who test positive isolate for five days rather than 10. The Minnesota Department of Health concurred and the Ely School District revised its quarantine policy to mirror those recommendations.
The impact on Ely’s school system has lessened, with declines even larger than those seen at the state and county levels.
In January, at one point as many as 46 students and staff were out of school at the same time and there have been over 200 cases among students and staff so far during the 2021-22 school year. There are currently no cases at the school.