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Kandiyohi Cty and Willmar officials ask for the public's help, region reports 16 deaths and 1,400 new COVID-19 cases in the new year

The impact of COVID-19 continues to mount in west central Minnesota, 16 deaths and 1,400 cases were reported. Willmar Lakes Area government and medical officials ask for the public's help to fight the omicron variant surge.

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Mother Claudia Reyes carries daughter Alondra Ryes, 4, into Walmart while wearing masks to protect themselves from the ever-growing number of COVID-19 cases in the region Friday afternoon. Mike Moore / West Central Tribune
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in the region, local officials are calling for the public's assistance in stamping down the disease's spread.

In a joint letter to west central Minnesota residents, Willmar Mayor Marv Calvin and Kandiyohi County Board Chair George "Corky" Berg wrote that the county is currently in a crisis, with this wave surpassing last year's peak.

"Our health care workers are exhausted and need our help now," the pair wrote. "The omicron variant is highly contagious and the number of people getting sick is increasing every day by numbers we have not seen before."

RELATED: Calvin and Berg: 'Immediate action on our part is necessary' to slow spread of COVID-19, avoid lockdowns

These pleas come amid another sixteen deaths related to COVID-19 and about 1,400 COVID-19 cases were reported in west central Minnesota from Dec. 30 to Jan. 6.

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Because of a reporting delay over the New Year's holiday weekend, this story includes Minnesota Department of Health updates covering eight days.

According to CentraCare , there is a shortage of ICU bed availability statewide and treatment options are limited due to the high demand. Monoclonals and oral antivirals are in limited supply and hospitals are prioritizing and rationing outpatient treatment options for COVID-19.

CentraCare warns that "not everyone will be able to receive beneficial treatments."

The letters request the public and businesses to continue to encourage mask use, limit interaction with others outside of family or work, practice good handwashing techniques, stay home if sick and to get vaccinated.

"We are currently not asking for a community shutdown — what we are trying to avoid is a 'sick down'; where there are not enough people to take care of those who are sick," reads part of the public officials' letter. "This could include even enough people to staff our critical services like schools, grocery stores, restaurants and your local fire departments."

Both Calvin and Berg wrote that the county can expect a rapid increase in cases for the next two weeks but "our community can change this direction if we do these simple things. Together, we can possibly save lives and hospitalizations."

CentraCare is specifically asking for indoor masking requirements everywhere, limiting public events and gatherings.

In Stearns County, the largest of the 11 counties tracked by the West Central Tribune, 10 deaths were reported. By age category, the deaths include one person in the 50-54 category, three age 55-59, one 60-64, two 65-69 and three 80-84.

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Kandiyohi County reported three deaths — one person 70-74 and two 75-79. One death of a person age 70-74 was reported in Meeker County. Redwood County reported the death of one person 60-64. Swift County reported the death of a person 70-74.

In the situation update from the Minnesota Department of Health Friday, the state listed 33 newly reported deaths and 7,833 new cases. The report is released five days a week at 11 a.m. and includes cases reported as of 4 a.m. the previous business day.

RELATED: See CORONAVIRUS

The state's cumulative number of cases is now 1,064,065, which includes 1,045,846 total people testing positive and 18,219 reinfections. The state reports the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 again more than 90 days after an initial lab-confirmed positive test.

The number of cumulative cases is 41,853 higher than a week ago.

The state’s current total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 is now at 10,766, which includes 250 more deaths than a week ago. Of that total, 5,197 deaths, 48.3%, have occurred in long-term care or assisted living facilities.

In a report of its response capacity to the pandemic, the Health Department that as of Thursday reported that 269 people with COVID-19 were in ICUs across the state , and 1,198 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized but not in an ICU.

The state reports the hospital capacity of adult and pediatric beds. Of the state's eight pediatric ICU units, five reported having zero beds available as of Thursday. Of the 36 non-ICU pediatric units reporting, 19 hospitals, 53%, said they had zero non-ICU pediatric beds available.

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Of 68 adult ICUs reporting, 55 of them, 81%, said they had zero beds available. Of 130 hospitals reporting on non-ICU patients, 59 hospitals, 45%, said they had zero beds available.

Statewide, 20 adult and 12 pediatric ICU beds were available as of Thursday.

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of COVID-19 cases among residents confirmed to reside in area counties and the number of deaths includes:

The state is also reports daily vaccine administration numbers. As of Friday's report, 3,771,106 Minnesotans have received one dose and 3,536,755 have completed the vaccine series statewide. The number of fully vaccinated people is 21,803 higher than a week ago.

According to the figures available Friday, the percentage of individuals age 5 and over who have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in area counties includes:

  • Big Stone: 64.8%

  • Chippewa: 60.8%

  • Kandiyohi: 59.6%

  • Lac qui Parle: 64.4%

  • Meeker: 52.8%

  • Pope: 60.9%

  • Redwood: 58.3%

  • Renville: 58.3%

  • Stearns: 58.1%

  • Swift: 60.8%

  • Yellow Medicine: 57.2%

The vaccine data web page is updated at 11 a.m. weekdays, but there is a delay between a vaccine being given and when it is reported to the Minnesota Department of Health.
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In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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