Waseca County’s COVID-19 case rate per 10,000 climbed for the seventh straight week last Thursday when the state released new data for the two-week reporting period from Sept. 9-19, but Waseca County Public Health Director Sarah Berry has started to see a downward trend in case count following that period.
Waseca County’s case rate sat at 92.51 per 10,000 for the two-week reporting period, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Waseca County has maintained the highest rate per 10,000 in the state for the last five two-week reporting periods. About 75-80% of the cases in the county have come from Federal Correctional Institution-Waseca. As of Wednesday, FCI-Waseca moved from No. 2 in the nation for COVID-19 cases in federal prisons to No. 4. The Bureau of Prisons reported 76 infected inmates and one staff member. The prison had 88 cases the day before. A total of 368 inmates and nine staff members have recovered from COVID-19, according to the BOP. FCI-Waseca has seen 445 inmates contract COVID-19 while it has tested 556 inmates. The facility houses 590 inmates.
From Oct. 1-7, Waseca County Public Health reported 114 new cases, of which 92 came from FCI-Waseca.
“It looks like we’ve made it past a hump of some kind or a hill,” Berry said. “We’re hoping that all of the testing and case investigations have resulted in appropriate quarantine so that our community members have less of a chance of contracting COVID. We’re always watching for the next hill.”
Berry expects the next two-week reporting data to remain around the same number when the state releases new data Thursday, but she’s encouraged by the lower numbers in the community outside of FCI-Waseca.
Waseca County held a drive-thru free community testing event Sept. 23-24 where 618 people got tested. Of those, only 14 came back positive for COVID-19, a positivity rate of 2.3%, according to the state.
Waseca County did report a new death last Thursday, bringing the county’s total to nine. Eight of those deaths have come in congregate care facilities. Three congregate care facilities have reported exposures, according to the MDH. Lake Shore Inn, New Richland Care Center and BridgeWater at Janesville have experienced exposures.
“We do see their numbers mirroring what we’re seeing in our general community, which is on a downward trend,” Berry said. “Things seem to be manageable.”
Excluding FCI-Waseca numbers, the county’s case rate hovers in the low 20s per 10,000, according to Berry.
Anyone exposed to the virus should self-quarantine for 14 days and wait around 10 days before getting tested, Berry said.
“Generally if you wait until at least day 10 and you remain symptom-free, after day 10 or on day 10 would be when we recommend testing be administered,” she said. “Even a negative result does not release you from the 14-day wait period.”
A test administered immediately following a notification of exposure might not detect the virus at that time since symptoms typically show days later.
Waseca Public Health has received calls from people asking how to handle when someone in the household has learned they are a close contact of an infected person. A close contact is deemed to be someone within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes.
“The other household members are able to do their daily activities until that close contact would potentially develop symptoms,” Berry said. “(Close contacts) should remain separate in the home.”
As colder weather approaches, Berry recommends flu vaccinations and that people continue to follow social distancing and mask guidelines as they spend more time indoors. Berry also recommends that people continue to maintain outdoor activities, eating well and getting good rest.
“All those things help fight off any germs we might encounter,” she said.