BEMIDJI -- About three weeks have passed since the first vaccines were administered in the Bemidji area and slowly, but surely, doses are getting out area residents.

This week, Sanford Health staff began vaccinating senior living residents at its Neilson Place facility. The effort is part of the first phase in Minnesota's vaccine plan. The phase began on Dec. 18, when the first vaccines were administered to frontline workers at the Sanford Health Medical Center in Bemidji.

The phase is labeled 1A by the Minnesota Department of Health. Phase 1B will be next with additional frontline essential workers and adults aged 75 and above. Then, 1C will include adults ages 65-74, as well as people ages 16-64 with medical conditions. Other essential workers will be included in 1C, too.

"The vaccine is coming into the state from several different channels," said Beltrami County Public Health Director Cynthia Borgen. "For our Indian Health Service partners, it's coming directly through the federal government. It comes through the state to our health care providers, and also there are small portions going to local public health offices. At some point, as part of the federal pharmacy partnership program, there will be retail pharmacies receiving vaccines, too."

In Beltrami County's case, the doses are coming in slowly.

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"We had 100 doses prior to Christmas and we've delivered all of them to people," Borgen said. "We've now received another 100 this week and we're getting that out to folks next week. Those doses are coming in slowly, so that makes things difficult for us in planning. We have our people all ready to go, we're just waiting for the vaccine."

With the rollout taking time, Borgen said communication has been ongoing with the local health network to keep the situation coordinated.

"We've been talking regularly with a few of our local pharmacies, to Sanford and our IHS partners about where they're at with the vaccination efforts and we'll continue to do that as we go along," Borgen said. "There will be times when one partner is a little bit ahead of another. That's the nature of the game. We're doing our best to coordinate, but we're also not delaying getting the vaccines into peoples' arms. We're trying to get the vaccinations done as quickly and as efficiently as possible while keeping some consistency with our priorities."

Along with handling vaccination efforts, Beltrami County is also continuing to track the number of active cases. As of Friday, Borgen said the department is tracking 90 cases, a steep decrease from when the office had 250 in early December.

"We're excited when that number drops below 100, since it had been so high for a while," Borgen said. "We're not sure if we'll bump up now after the holidays or not. We hope that people were responsible and limited their interactions, but we're not far enough from the holidays to get a full picture yet."

Since the pandemic began, Beltrami County has recorded 2,981 cases. Across the whole state, there have been 5.8 million tests administered with 431,944 cases. There are now 409,727 people out of isolation, while 5,620 Minnesotans have died from the virus.

In total, there have been 22,617 hospitalizations because of COVID. Locally, as of Friday, there were 10 individuals hospitalized in Bemidji, with five of them being Beltrami County residents.