Recent statistics show 53 percent of those 16 and over in Minnesota have received one COVID-19 vaccine, as of April 21, compared to 41 percent in Hubbard County.

Statewide, 37 percent of the population have completed their vaccinations compared with 33.8 percent here.

The most current vaccination rates are listed on the Minnesota Department of Health vaccine data site by county at https://mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/data/index.jsp.

Rising case numbers

An increase in COVID-19 case numbers at both the state and county level occurred earlier this month. While statewide data shows that wave of increases appears to be lessening, here in Hubard county that hasn’t happened yet.

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Marlee Morrison is the director at CHI St. Joseph’s Health Community Health.

"After a period of flat and declining cases, during the month of April we have seen an increase in cases in Hubbard County as well as increased hospitalizations,” she said. “We know that we have variant strains circulating in the state and in our county, with the UK variant as the dominant strain in our state right now.”

Morrison said that when someone tests positive for COVID it is lab criteria that determines if it needs to be sequenced for variants.

She said just because people are vaccinated they shouldn’t become complacent. With almost 60 percent of people in Hubbard County unvaccinated, Morrison said people should still be following all of the health guidelines that are in place, including masking in public, frequent hand washing, staying home when sick and avoiding large crowded gatherings whenever possible.

“We are still seeing COVID spread in our county, with cases predominantly in a younger population,” she said. “Getting vaccinated and continuing public health precautions are key to avoiding more illness and moving back towards normal. Pandemic fatigue is understandable, but masks will be with us until more people are vaccinated and new cases subside.

“We are asking the public to remain vigilant and get vaccinated to help us keep moving towards normalcy. Things are opening up, but people still should avoid large gatherings until more people are vaccinated and virus activity has decreased.”

Real-life vaccine test

Chris Davis is the pastor of First English Lutheran Church of Dorset. He and his wife, Karrie, were vaccinated at the Fargo VA Hospital this winter during a campaign to vaccinate veterans.

Their son, Ward, tested positive for COVID recently. “He’d been golfing with a buddy and they went out to supper,” he said. “Within a day or two, he had a few mild symptoms, a little bit of a sore throat and some congestion, but we didn’t think anything of it because he has seasonal allergies.”

After finding out his buddy had tested positive for COVID, Ward was tested and found out he was positive, too.

“We are a pretty tight-knit family and had been interacting with Ward for almost a week by then with no distancing at all,” he said. “Because I am a pastor, I went and got tested and it came back negative. My wife didn’t get tested but she didn’t get sick either. I believe the vaccine protected us. I want to encourage everybody to get the vaccine because it’s clear to me from my experience there’s no doubt that it works. ”

Vaccinated, now what?

Fully vaccinated people still need to wear masks indoors in Minnesota since the face covering requirement under Executive Order 20-81 does not include exemptions for vaccinated people.

“If you go into a public area, you’re supposed to be masked,” Morrison said. “That is the rule in Minnesota. The state will remove the mask mandate when the time comes.”

Being fully vaccinated does not mean all activities are safe to resume in all situations.

Guidelines are available at “About COVID-19 Vaccine: For fully vaccinated people” at https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/vaccine/basics.html#recs.

Studies have shown that COVID-19 is spread mainly between people who are within about six feet of each through tiny droplets that form in the air when someone coughs, talks, sings or laughs.

While getting together with a group of people who are all vaccinated is the safest form of gathering, there is still a small risk since the vaccines are not 100 percent effective and have not been fully tested in real life situations.

The CDC recommends moving activities outdoors when possible because greater airflow and a greater ability to social distance decrease the likelihood of spreading the virus to others.

But that doesn't mean that outdoor gatherings are without risk. Health officials have traced cases to people attending outdoor gatherings ranging from 25 to 100 people.

Making gatherings safer

The CDC has the following recommendations for indoor gatherings:

  • You can gather indoors with smaller groups of fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask. Avoid larger gatherings.

  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Learn more at “CDC: People with Certain Medical Conditions” at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html.

These are the CDC recommendations outdoor gatherings:

  • Continue to keep physical distance of at least six feet when outdoors with people from other households, with 10 feet of distance preferable.

  • If there will be a meal, ask guests to provide their own food, drinks and dishes. Outdoor dining is considered safer than indoor dining, so eat at picnic tables or on a deck six feet apart.

  • Wear a mask outdoors except when eating or drinking.

  • Gather only with others who are practicing physical distancing and other precautions to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

  • Consider the community infection rate when determining whether to host or attend an outdoor gathering, because as an area's infection rate increases, so does the risk of coming into contact with someone who is infected. Guidelines state people should avoid socializing with anyone who doesn't live in their household when the positivity rate for coronavirus tests in their areas exceeds five percent.