It was a message nobody wants to hear.

"The pandemic is not over," Public Health Director Jody Lien told Otter Tail County commissioners at their July 27 meeting. “We’re starting to hear some cause for concern."

Otter Tail County's cases have more than doubled from about six cases a week, to about 15 or 16 cases a week, and the county is seeing clusters of cases, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, Lien said. The percentage of Otter Tail County residents ages 16 and up who are vaccinated hovers at about 56% to 57%

Minnesota's variant, Alpha, or B117, still dominates here, but the highly contagious Delta variant is making more headway into the state, she told commissioners.

The news is good for those who are vaccinated, as only one in 1,000 has contracted COVID, she said. Residents are slowly continuing to get vaccinated.

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"Little by little, just increasing those vaccination rates are going to decrease the ability of that virus to take hold in Otter Tail County," she said.

Jody Lien, Otter Tail County Public Health director
Jody Lien, Otter Tail County Public Health director

She said she expects that the number of cases will increase in the fall, and that it will tax her department. She has been talking to temporary staff about returning to work in the fall to help the county through any outbreaks.

Commissioner Betty Murphy commented that she was concerned about death certificates, and said she had been listening to a doctor who said that a lot of the deaths being recorded aren't being done by a doctor. And even if they die in a hospital, the testing that's done or the decision of what they died from is subjective.

Lien cited a Star Tribune article about death certificates, and said the state of Minnesota reviews death certificates.

"That's been a concern throughout the pandemic, but there really isn't any data that says there's overinflation of deaths related to COVID-19," she said.

Murphy also said she had heard that a local hospital was seeing more cases of COVID among vaccinated people.

"That's not accurate information," Lien said. "It's actually the exact opposite."

She said she has recently talked to health care providers, and they are seeing the opposite of what Murphy has heard.

In other action, the county commission met behind closed doors to discuss potential litigation involving Nelson Lake and County Road 6. Afterward, attorney Michelle Eldien said that there has not been any notice of intent to sue with the county, and that the county was discussing possible litigation.