Officials with the St. Louis County Department of Health are issuing new mask guidance as COVID-19 transmission rates increase.
The new recommendation, reported by WDIO Monday afternoon, is that masks be worn in all indoor, public places in St. Louis County. This announcement from the county follows guidance issued last week by the CDC regarding masks and the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
The CDC's recommendations, issued July 27, instruct that all people should wear masks in indoor settings in areas of "substantial or high transmission", regardless of vaccination status. When this information was issued last week, most of the Northland was in the "moderate" transmission category, but that has changed a lot in recent days.
The current map from the CDC as of August 2 shows two counties in the region (Lake County in Minnesota and Iron County in Wisconsin) in the "High Transmission" category, with 7 additional counties in the "substantial" county, including St. Louis and Aitkin counties in Minnesota and Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Bayfield, and Ashland counties in Wisconsin.
These transmission rates are defined as follows:
- High: 100+ total new cases per 100,000 residents in the last 7 days
- Substantial: 50-99.99 total new cases per 100,000 residents in the last 7 days
- Moderate: 10-49.99 total new cases per 100,000 residents in the last 7 days
- Low: 0-9.99 total new cases per 100,000 residents in the last 7 days
In the most recent data, St. Louis County rose into the "substantial" transmission category on July 30 with the county now reporting 54.4 cases per 100,000 residents.
The rise in new cases has county health officials reiterating the importance of getting vaccinated in the face of this more easily transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 as it rapidly spreads across the country.
Health officials in St. Louis County remind the public that anyone 12 and older is eligible, and can take advantage of one of many vaccination sites or events in the county. Also of note is Minnesota's efforts to encourage people to vaccinate with a $100 incentive to receive your first dose before August 15.