By Anna Jauhola
Through February, Kittson County’s COVID-positive numbers have increased by about 40, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health. And those numbers continue to even off as each week’s data comes in.
While the total recorded number of COVID cases for the county is just over 1,000, officials continually remind the public that is not an entirely accurate number and COVID is still circulating. It’s important to get vaccinated, and Kittson County continues to do just that.
The Department of Health shows about 78 percent of Kittson County’s 18-plus population has received a completed COVID-19 vaccine.
Despite that, the omicron variant has quickly traveled across the country and testing remains an effective tool in curbing the spread. At-home COVID tests are available for a fee over the counter, but people can order them online as well – for free – through www.covidtests.gov.
Kittson County Public Health also has at-home tests available, for free, at Kittson Healthcare in Hallock. Public Health Director Jeanna Kujava received these tests and is also going to have them at different locations in the county to make them more available to the public.
“These are designed to be serial, so one person uses both tests,” Kujava said.
Both the tests from the feds and the ones from the state are rapid-antigen tests and can be used if you are exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID or if you show symptoms and need a test. The rapid-antigen tests only require a quick nasal swab and produce results in minutes.
“You use one test when you find out you’ve been exposed and then use one a few days later,” Kujava said. “It’s important to read the instructions because this test is best used if you have actual (COVID) symptoms. It’s an antigen test, so it picks up if you have a high amount of viral load, the active illness.”
Each household in the United States is eligible to receive four of the at-home tests from covidtests.gov. These are shipped straight to your home.
They are approved for emergency use through the FDA and that organization states they can be used even if the tests are exposed to freezing temperatures for a short period. To use the tests, make sure they are at room temperature first, which takes about two hours, according to the FDA website. It is best to get them indoors as quickly as possible.
“The reliability of the test is dependent on storage,” Kujava said.
Locally, each person can pick up one kit, which contains two tests. Each household can take a test kit for each person in the home, Kujava said. You can just stop into the clinic or public health office and get the tests, she added.
Kittson Healthcare continues to do PCR testing, which detects COVID regardless of symptoms.
Although testing is a great tool to determine COVID infections, Kujava also still highly recommends using masks to help curb the spread of the illness. She recently received N95 masks to give away. These masks prevent your germs from spreading and filter out others’ germs. They provide another layer of protection and are also available – two per person and free – from the public health office or at the hospital registration desk in Hallock.
Getting vaccinated, masking, washing our hands and taking common sense precautions are still the best defenses the public can use to slow the spread of COVID. But, Kujava said mental health is becoming collateral damage.
“I think it’s time we start thinking about living,” Kujava said. “I just feel like people are ready for something hopeful. And especially if you’ve done all those things. What more can we do? It’s always about weighing that level of risk. At this point our mental health is very important and we need to start feeling that we can do this.”
If you have questions, call the public health office at 218-843-3662.
Another great resource through the CDC is a COVID-by-county community spread level indicator. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/ coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county.html.
By Anna Jauhola