In recent weeks, COVID-19 positive cases have remained steady in Itasca County, according to Itasca County Public Health Manager Kelly Chandler. 

During a press conference on Thursday, Chandler relayed an update on the local COVID-19 situation and invited mental health professionals to offer tips for people on how to stay healthy and positive during this stressful time. 

In the past seven days, Itasca County has seen 53 new positive cases; 117 in the past 14 days. Currently, 85 residents are hospitalized due to COVID-19  and 16 are in an intensive care unit (ICU), according to state reports.

Total positive cases among Itasca County residents to date is 2,751, with 43 deaths related to COVID-19.

Chandler expressed appreciation for patience as the county starts vaccinating people. She said Itasca has received 800 doses which are being given to health care and emergency personnel. A second batch of the vaccine is expected soon. For those who have been vaccinated, it is still recommended to wear a mask as well as practice social distancing. 

As Minnesota Governor Tim Walz allows bars and restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues to open back up at limited capacities on Jan. 11 and school and sports begin again, people will be able to resume some of their normal activities to some degree. Still, local mental health professionals encourage people to be aware of how the changes with COVID-19 have affected their personal well-being and they suggest measures of self-care during adjustments in life. 

“The truth is we do need to take care of ourselves - even small acts of care help,” said Deer River Schools counselor Tanis Henderson, MS, LSC, NCC, who urged families to be aware of their children’s emotions at this time. “Any act of self care is an act of love.”

Local mental health therapist Jessica Colter, MSW, LGSW, works with clients of all ages and knows how people react to changes differently. However, “as human beings we crave predictability and no one has that now.”

Colter said people should give themselves a break and focus on self-care. She also believes keeping connected with friends and family is very important during times like these. 

“I huge piece is maintaining those connections - it’s just as important for you as it is for others.”

Bottom line, Colter says is “finding what works for you.”

For those who are already working on self-care but still feeling uneasy, Cre Larson said it’s time to get to the root of what is causing that feeling.

“Is it fear? Fear could be a sense of loss of emotional supports,” explained Larson who is executive director for First Call for Help of Itasca County/2-1-1. “My one hope would be for people to take time to identify those underlying stresses leading to discomfort.”

Larson encouraged people to stop and identify what is bothering them instead of plowing through each day, carrying their burdens. One way to break up the tension, Larson explained, is to maintain social connections. 

“Isolation and social distancing doesn’t have to mean cutting off all connections - it’s just doing things differently,” explained Larson who mentioned the website resource, for people to visit to find ideas for improving their well-being and staying connected. 

“Take time to breathe and feel what your body is telling you. Take time to understand what’s going on and find ways to improve it,” added Larson.

Itasca residents with questions or concerns may leave them at the Itasca County COVID message line, with calls returned 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday. The Itasca COVID line number is 218-327-6784.  Current local data and information also can be found at the county’s website here:



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