Officials have identified a "significant increase" in COVID-19 cases in Ely, which has prompted St. Louis County Public Health to remind people to get tested and quarantine if they've been exposed in order to prevent further transmission of the virus.
"We know people are tired, and probably have been experiencing information overload about COVID precautions this past year," St. Louis County Public Health Director Amy Westbrook said in a statement.
"But outbreaks such as what we've seen in several of our communities in the last two weeks makes it very clear that we can't let our guard down yet. Vaccinations are making a difference, but we still must all remain vigilant and do our part to minimize the spread of this virus."
In the past week, there have been 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ely, which represents 15% of the total cases for all of St. Louis County.
St. Louis Public Health says some of the cases "appear to be travel related" but others are linked to social gatherings and youth sports.
Related [March 22]: Some parents avoiding COVID tests for kids to keep schools, sports going
Anyone who has spent 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days whether they're symptomatic or not, with the exception of people who are fully vaccinated and it's been at least 14 days since their final dose of the COVID vaccine, the county says.
Meanwhile, St. Louis County Public Health is working with schools to provide testing kits for students who may be asymptomatic. People can order a free at-home saliva test kit from the Minnesota Department of Health online here or get tested at Essentia Health Ely Clinic (other testing locations can be found here).
Anyone who has symptoms, has been exposed to COVID-19 or has attended a gathering or indoor event should be tested for COVID-19. The health department also encourages students get tested at least every two weeks and student-athletes get tested every week.
The outbreak in Ely comes as cases of COVID-19 have been trending upward in Minnesota, especially following an increase in cases of the B.1.1.7 variant that was first discovered in the United Kingdom. That variant has been liked to an outbreak in Carver County that's tied to youth sports, and other outbreaks in Scott, Blue Earth, and St. Louis counties.
Minnesota has routinely had around 1,000 confirmed cases per day over the past week to 10 days, and hospitalizations have risen from the low 220s in early March to 332 (as of March 23).