Clay County health official reflects on up-and-down year

Minnesota's first COVID-19 death was on March 19, 2020, and state health officials confirmed it two days later.

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The American flag outside the Clay County Courthouse flies at half-staff Friday, March 19, to honor all lives lost to COVID-19. Tanner Robinson / WDAY

MOORHEAD — All across Minnesota, gusts of wind made American flags fly, as they sat at half-staff to honor lives lost to COVID-19.

A year ago Friday, March 19, the first death from the virus in the state was an 80-year-old from Ramsey County, and Minnesota State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm confirmed it two days later.

Cheryl Sapp, the clinical coordinator for Clay County Public Health, said the health department already had the virus on their radar well before the first case came to the county on March 19, 2020.

"We were all very green in this, we started having our first discussions probably in late January," she said.


Over the past year, cases and deaths across the state piled up, including the state's first infant death — a 9-month-old — in Clay County last July.

"It just seemed to snowball as we heard about increasing deaths. I mean, our hearts were heavy thinking about these poor people," Sapp said.

Cheryl Sapp, the clinical coordinator for Clay County Public Health, sorts through vaccine syringes during a vaccine clinic. WDAY file photo

Above all the grim numbers, the state is also moving along in the vaccine rollout, as they've given out over 2 million shots.

Clay and Polk Counties have vaccinated over 20% of their population as of Friday.

"We have had many people that come through our clinic and just say this is better than winning the lottery," Sapp said.


But, Sapp said while vaccines are on the rise, people should still be cautious, as the fight against the virus continues.

"It is great that we have as many people vaccinated as we have thus far, but we still are not at the point where we can just rip off those masks," she said.

Tanner Robinson is a producer for First News on WDAY-TV.
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