What if Minnesota’s COVID-19 deaths struck the state’s smallest towns and communities first? How many Minnesota communities which would no longer exist due to COVID-19?

Prevent Minnesota's COVID-19 deaths: Mask Up, Minnesota.
Source: Stay Safe MN Campaign

February 14, 2021: Minnesota’s COVID-19 Deaths

COVID-19 has killed 6,111 people in Minnesota (MDH, confirmed deaths) and 482,536 people nationwide (CDC) as of February 7, 2021. And yet the magnitude of death is hard to fathom. The population of Minnesota is 5,680,337 people. While 6,111 is a lot of dead mothers, brothers, partners, and people, comparing those individual losses to the faceless sense of mass humanity belittles the loss. Yet there is power to be gained by visualizing on a geographic scale.

Arbitrary Boundaries Are Important

The artists and architects of the Minnesota Vietnam Memorial certainly understood this. Located south of the Minnesota Capitol, the Memorial replicates the iconic wall of the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. The Minnesota Vietnam Memorial adds a geographically distinct Minnesota twist. The memorial plaza is surfaced with 68,000 granite squares in the shape of the North Star state. Each square represents a Minnesotan Vietnam vet. 1,120 of the squares are dark green, one for each of the Minnesotans Killed-In-Action or Missing-In-Action. Each dark green square’s location on the plaza map of Minnesota marks the hometown of a Minnesotan who did not return.

In memorialization, where a person is from weighs more than where or how they died. 

Visualizing COVID-19

Lacking the hometowns of all 6,111 Minnesota COVID-19 deaths, what if we could geographically group and plot them onto municipalities? The Washington Post back in November visualized COVID-19 deaths on the national scale. The volume shows whole swaths of the country emptied of people. The Post did a similar visualization in September 2020 if all deaths were centered around your house. For Minnesota, giving the losses a hypothetical geographic location creates an understanding that the individuals lost shared more than a cause of death. They all lived in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

The Map

Below is a map designating the 144 Minnesota communities which would no longer exist if the 6,111 Minnesota fatalities from COVID-19 all lived in the same cities and townships. If they all lived within the same municipal boundary, International Falls would be a ghost town. If they all lived in the same county, Grant County would revert to wilderness.

The List

And here is (hypothetically) an in memoriam listing of those communities with their former population.

February 7, 2021 (Initial Post)
Aldrich, City of42Alvwood Township39
Anthony Township50Balsam Township (Aitkin Co.)38
Barry, City of13Bassett Township47
Battle Township54Beaver Township (Aitkin Co.)43
Big Woods Township37Boxville Township30
Boy River, City of51Brandt Township53
Bray Township56Brislet Township45
Browns Creek Township45Camp 5 Township29
Campbell Township53Cannon Township12
Caribou Township43Cedar Mills, City of45
Champion Township46Clow Township42
Cobden30Como Township39
Cornish Township (Aitkin Co.)32Correll30
Croke Township60Davis Township25
Donnelly Township (Marshall Co.)16Doran42
Dovray, City of55Eagle Point Township11
East Park Township26East Valley Township43
Espelie Township37Farley Township43
Farwell50Florence, City of38
Foldahl Township60Fork Township8
Funkley10Good Hope Township (Norman Co.)40
Gorton Township53Grand Plain Township54
Grattan Township41Gully, City of58
Hammond Township48Hampden Township41
Hamre Township15Hangaard Township5
Hatfield53Hegne Township33
Helgeland Township56Hill Township22
Hillman, City of40Humboldt, City of39
Ihlen52Johnson, City of27
Johnson Township49Kenneth59
Kinbrae16Lee Township (Aitkin Co.)48
Lee Township (Beltrami Co.)56Leonard40
Leonidas48Lewis Township48
Libby Township52Lind Township48
Linsell Township32Lockhart Township50
Long Lost Lake Township42Louisburg37
Manchester, City of50Manston Township40
Mayfield Township45McCauleyville Township59
Meadows Township38Minnie Township22
Mizpah52Moose River township25
Nassau56Nereson Township46
Ness Township55Nilsen Township55
Nore Township57North Ottawa Township50
O’Brien Township59Palmville Township36
Park Township30Parker Township (Marshall Co.)33
Parnell Township (Traverse Co.)52Parnell Township (Polk Co.)54
Pelan Township42Percy Township26
Pohlitz Township27Polonia Township31
Pomroy Township (Itasca Co.)45Prairie Lake Township47
Redpath Township47Regal33
Rockwell Township52Russia Township25
Sargeant, City of56Seavey Township54
Sedan50Shotley Township50
Sinnott Township19Skane Township49
South Red River Township22Spring Brook Township39
Spruce Grove Township (Beltrami Co.)56St. Joseph Township (Kittson Co.)59
St. Vincent, City of51St. Vincent Township48
Steenerson Township20Strathcona35
Svea Township45Taopi57
Tegner Township39Teien Township55
Thief Lake Township39Third River Township54
Thorpe Township53Tintah, City of57
Tintah Township30Toqua Township51
Veldt Township35Verdon Township37
Westport, City of54White Pine Township32
Whiteford Township44Wilder56
Winchester Township48Wolf Lake, City of60
February 14, 2021
Tanberg Township60Walls Township60
In memoriam

Data Construction

The list was constructed by taking the Minnesota Department of Health’s count of confirmed COVID-19 deaths and comparing it with the Minnesota Department of Administration State Demographic Center’s estimate of the number of people living in Minnesota’s cities and townships as of 2019, the most recent list until the 2020 U.S. Census numbers are released.


“Minnesota’s COVID-19 Deaths Visualized” was originally published on February 8, 2021.

  • February 8, 2021: Deaths – 6,038; Single Municipality – Corcoran; County – Grant; 142 Communities.
  • February 14, 2021: Deaths – 6,111; Single Municipality – International Falls; 144 Communities (added Walls and Tanberg).

The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Not Over

144 Minnesota communities. 6,111 Minnesotans. The COVID-19 pandemic caused Minnesota’s highest annual death count and has already taken almost six times as many lives as the war in Vietnam. Let’s remember those lost and work to prevent greater causalities.

Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Physically distance. Get vaccinated.

(Read more of The CNotebook. Visualize Wisconsin’s COVID-19 deathsRead more on public health.)

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