AITKIN, MN-- COVID-19 cases in Aitkin County are rising fast and one area health official is pleading to take the virus seriously before it's too late.
"Certainly, this is something that we are concerned about," said Aitkin County Public Health Supervisor, Erin Melz.
As of Monday, the county has 685 confirmed cases.
"Our average age is 53 and we have 23 confirmed deaths," said Melz.
A John Hopkins University study published in the Wall Street Journal found 156 cases per 100,000 people in the county.
Melz said though it's difficult to pinpoint why the numbers are so high, she does say Aitkin County has a large aging population, which could be a contributing factor.
"We have two skilled nursing facilities; we have four assisted livings and then we have several other congregants living situations such as foster care."
Melz also warned some people are letting down their guard.
"We've definitely seen that our communities are slipping in their precautionary practices like masking and social distancing and this leaves room for more significant spread," said Melz.
Melz adds the only hospital in the county, Riverwood Healthcare has reached capacity a few times already.
"It's a relativity fluid situation that I know they are monitoring closely."
A plea to take COVID-19 seriously before it's too late.
"We want the public to know that our actions today will definitely affect our communities tomorrow," said Melz.
We reached out to Riverwood Health Care Center for comment but did not hear back by news time.