St. Louis County saw its largest single-day jump in COVID-19 cases, with another 11 reported Wednesday, bringing the total of confirmed cases to 28, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Many new cases are linked to an assisted-living facility in Duluth, St. Ann's Residence. St. Louis County Public Health, the Minnesota Department of Health and area health care partners are working with St. Ann's staff to provide infection-control recommendations, supplies and surge capacity. A case manager with MDH has been assigned to work with St. Ann's.

At least two new cases are currently hospitalized, including a man in his early 70s and a woman in her late 80s, according to a news release from St. Louis County. Five people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in St. Louis County.

The other nine new cases include seven women and two men, ranging in ages from mid-40s to mid-90s.

The Health Department does not disclose the number of confirmed cases at specific congregate care living facilities.

St. Louis County Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook said, since with several recent cases officials could not link infections to a known case or to travel, the county believes community transmission is occurring.

Residents and staff at St. Ann's who are ill are being tested with assistance from St. Luke's and Essentia Health, Westbrook said.

"As we talk about numbers and statistics, we always remember that these are people we're talking about. They're not just numbers," Westbrook said. "They are parents, grandparents, neighbors and valued members of our community."

As of Wednesday, St. Ann's is not yet included on the Health Department's online listing of congregate care facilities tied to one or more COVID-19 cases. The Health Department's infectious disease epidemiology department director, Kristen Ehresmann, said a 48-hour notice is given to facilities so they have time to inform staff, residents and healthcare workers first.

To help prevent further spread of the virus in facilities, Ehresmann said MDH conducts extensive case interviews to identify any potential exposures within the facility before determining infection-control recommendations, such as isolating ill residents or cohorting ill residents together while isolating uninfected patients.

"We also assess the facility's personal protective equipment, their staffing and other resources," Ehresmann said. "We offer a virtual infection control evaluation of the facility by our infection control team."

Ehresmann said MDH has been encouraging people not to focus on the absolute numbers and to remember there's much more COVID-19 activity than what's reported.

Before Wednesday, the largest single-day jump in St. Louis County was five new cases, reported on March 29. Of 28 confirmed cases in St. Louis County, 11 people are now recovered and no longer need to be isolated.

On Wednesday, one more case was reported in Carlton County, bringing the total to 14. Itasca County still has two confirmed cases; its most recent was reported April 1. Cook and Lake counties have no confirmed cases. No deaths have been reported in the Northland.

Statewide, 1,154 people have tested positive of 30,753 tests completed as of 4 p.m. Tuesday; 632 people no longer need to be isolated. On Wednesday, 135 people were hospitalized, 64 in an intensive care unit.

The Health Department reported five more deaths in Minnesota, bringing the total to 39.

This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. April 8 to include information from a news conference with St. Louis County and the Minnesota Department of Health. It was originally posted at 11:23 a.m. April 8.

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