OLIVIA — Renville County’s case rate for COVID-19 has dropped to its lowest point since August of last year.
The county has recently been able to demobilize its Emergency Operations Center that coordinated the response to the pandemic.
“The pandemic is really lying down,” Jill Bruns, public health director, told the Renville County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.
With the good news came a word of caution. Like much of the state, the county is struggling to reach the desired goal of having 70 percent of the population vaccinated.
"This virus will be with us. This virus is not leaving us. Similar to influenza, we will have some illnesses, even some deaths, in the future."
— Jill Bruns, Renville County Public Health director
Most concerning, according to the public health director, is that there remain areas where the vaccination rate lags behind the county as a whole.
It raises the specter of a possible flare-up of COVID-19 in the months to come, she warned.
“This virus will be with us,” said Bruns. “This virus is not leaving us. Similar to influenza, we will have some illnesses, even some deaths, in the future.”
Could it all return in a big way next Thanksgiving when we return indoors, asked board chair Bob Fox.
”It could again, just like influenza,” said Bruns.
While the COVID-19 virus does not seem to be as seasonal as influenza, increased social activities indoors do spread it.
"There could be a surge again come fall,” she said.
The current case rate in the county is 8.22 per 10,000, according to Bruns. Since the pandemic began, the county has recorded 1,819 cases and 45 deaths, as of June 3, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Bruns said the county has reached a 55.3 percent vaccination rate overall, as compared to a 64.5 percent rate statewide. The Buffalo Lake and Bird Island areas lead with 65 percent and 63 percent of the population 16 and over vaccinated, respectively.
There are communities lagging behind. Sacred Heart has the lowest vaccination rate at 44 percent, and Franklin is in the 40s as well.
Bruns said she does not know why there are areas with lower vaccination rates. She said it is known that people who are most likely to get the vaccine are those who have had personal experiences with a family member or friend who had a bad case of the virus.
Her office is continually working to reach out and bring vaccination clinics to residents of the county.
She said the office recently was able to obtain some of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one shot.
It’s hoped that might attract people from the agricultural community who have said they cannot afford the time to complete the two dose-vaccination process required of the other two vaccines authorized for use in the United States.
The public health office has been offering vaccination clinics this week in Hector, Franklin and Danube and will do so next week in Fairfax, Buffalo Lake and Sacred Heart. Those participating will be provided links to be eligible for state-offered incentives. Information is available on the department’s website at renvillecountymn.com.