The Rural County that Kept Covid at Bay

Follow the north shore of Lake Superior a couple hours northeast of Duluth, and you’ll find yourself in Cook County, Minn. This rural county has racked up some remarkable statistics through the pandemic: no recorded deaths from Covid-19 and a vaccination rate that leads the state -- nearly 80 percent of adults had received at least one dose of the vaccine by mid-May. The county recognized that the pandemic could have serious impacts for them as a tourist destination, especially in light of their limited medical resources, so they went proactive early on. “Rather than making it this public health versus business thing, we just tried…to support the businesses coming up with good plans over the course of the past year,” said Grace Grinager, the county public health coordinator. Public health officials worked with tourism staff to develop a promotional campaign and a visitor’s pledge, which challenged everyone visiting to wear masks and protect the community by following social distancing guidelines. “It’s like we know everyone, and we have to keep seeing everyone and living with everyone in the community. So working together is really the best option rather than alienating each other,” Grinager said.