BEMIDJI -- Beltrami County has now recorded more than 5,000 coronavirus cases since the pandemic started in March 2020.
On Friday morning, the Minnesota Department of Health had recorded 5,013 total coronavirus cases and as of Thursday, Sept. 16, Beltrami County Public Health was tracking 238 current cases. In just over two months, Beltrami County COVID cases have increased by about 1,000, as there were 4,018 on July 9.
Across the state as a whole, Minnesota has recorded 681,613 cases with 657,145 now out of isolation. Minnesota has also recorded 7,983 deaths, with 72 in Beltrami County.
Megan Heuer, Beltrami County Public Health director, also said there are now 13 hospitalizations locally, with nine of them being county residents. Since the pandemic started, Minnesota has had 36,755 hospitalizations.
In response to rising numbers, health officials are encouraging people to get vaccinated. So far, 3.36 million Minnesotans have received one dose and 3.18 million, or 69.1% of the state population, are fully vaccinated.
In Beltrami County, 21,648 residents have received one dose, while 20,406 are fully vaccinated.
Vaccination efforts are being made by regional tribal governments as well. Earlier this week, the Red Lake Tribal Council issued a vaccine mandate for all persons who enter the reservation for employment and business purposes.
According to the approved resolution, those who do not wish to follow the mandate shall test weekly and provide documentation showing test results. Additionally, all tribal programs and enterprises shall screen the verification of those employees who are vaccinated to verify that the employees have in fact been vaccinated.
The Red Lake resolution does include exemptions for pregnant women, a documented medical condition, religious beliefs and children under 12.
In the White Earth Nation, meanwhile, emergency management official Ed Snetsing said 8,374 people have received one dose while 7,931 have been fully vaccinated through the tribal health department.
"We've had some early success with vaccinating and it wasn't limited to just members of the White Earth Nation, but surrounding communities as well," Snetsing said. "We want to encourage people to get the vaccines. It's one way to not only protect yourself but your family from COVID-19. We're also encouraging mask-wearing and social distancing."
According to the Indian Health Service's website, the agency has administered 129,474 doses for its Bemidji service area. The IHS Bemidji area office provides service to 34 federally recognized tribes and four urban Indian Health programs in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
To help encourage more vaccinations in Native American communities, the Northwest Minnesota Foundation announced on Sept. 10 that it is accepting grant applications for its vaccine incentive program. As part of the program, the NMF will fund activities to encourage and assist the delivery of COVID vaccinations to historically disadvantaged communities.
According to a press release, in Minnesota, Native Americans have the highest COVID fatality rate, as 1.7% of positive cases have resulted in death, compared to 1.2% for the total population.
Grants for the program may fund the cost of vaccination incentives, event space costs, event amenities, food and a nominal administration fee of up to 6% of the total grant awarded. The NMF's goal is to provide funding for a minimum of five community events, 10 on-site agency events and funding incentives to encourage 300 people to get vaccinated.
The total funding available is $48,000 and grant amounts are expected between $5,000 and $10,000.