BEMIDJI -- The number of active coronavirus cases in Beltrami County has decreased significantly since fall, while local health providers continue to administer vaccinations.
As of Friday, Beltrami County Public Health Director Cynthia Borgen said her office was tracking just 34 COVID-19 cases, down from 90 in January. Before 2021, the county had been tracking at least 250 cases in December and 115 in October.
"We're really happy to see that," Borgen said. "Although, it has stopped declining there. So, we still need people to follow the COVID guidance and be aware of where they spend their time, as most people have not been vaccinated. I know everyone's tired of that message, but with some of the new variants we're seeing, it's really important."
Along with communicating with those who have contracted the virus, Borgen said the department has been focused on vaccinations, with second doses going to hundreds in the last two weeks.
"We've completed second doses for our mass vaccination events," Borgen said. "A month ago, we had a pretty big event at the Sanford Center for first doses and we gave 899 vaccinations over three days, with some being Pfizer and others were Moderna. Last week we did the second doses for the Pfizer and this week we did the second shots of Moderna."
Borgen said the office had some additional Moderna, too, so an additional 580 first doses were administered at the Sanford Center.
In recent weeks, Borgen said the department has been focusing on staff of early child care facilities and K-12 school districts, and they have mostly been completed.
"Now we're ready to turn our attention to that 65 and older population," Borgen said. "That group has already been getting some vaccinations, with Sanford doing a lot for that group, as well as many of our local pharmacies. We encourage people in that group to get vaccinated with whoever they can get it with first."
With the health department now joining that effort, Borgen said residents can now call the office number, (218) 333-8140, for a vaccination appointment.
"We're scheduling those folks now as we can," Borgen. "In the future, as we move into essential workers, we're going to be working primarily with those employers and businesses to vaccinate workers."
Local tribal efforts
Vaccinations are also being administered throughout Minnesota's Native American Nations. The Indian Health Service's Bemidji Area Office provides support to 34 tribes in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
As of Feb. 22, the Bemidji Area Office has administered 35,010 doses to the tribes it serves. Locally, according to Leech Lake News, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe has administered more than 3,000 vaccinations by the tribe's Health Division and the Cass Lake Health Service.
In a release from Leech Lake News, the vaccine rollout program advanced from Tier 2B, which included school districts, to Tier 3A, which provides eligibility to all persons 18 and older in Cass Lake, Bena, Walker, Deer River, Federal Dam, Longville, Boy River, Laporte, S Lake and Inger. Also included in the latest expansion are non-Indian Health Service eligible spouses of band members and/or band employees.
Those who meet the criteria are asked to call the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Vaccine Hotline at (218) 368-4763.
For the Red Lake Nation, the first vaccination efforts were listed as Tier 1, which included all health care and public safety workers, as well as staff and residents of the Jourdain Perpich Extended Care Center.
For February, Red Lake moved into Tier 2, which included frontline and essential workers, such as law enforcement, courts, tribal government, human services, transportation and food industry. staff. Tier 3 will be patients with high risk and underlying health conditions, and anyone from previous tiers.
For more information, the Red Lake Government Center can be reached at (218) 679-3341.
In the state of Minnesota as a whole, there have been 482,978 total cases since the pandemic began and there are now 469,149 no longer in isolation, as well as 6,462 deaths. Beltrami County has recorded 3,357 cases over the course of the pandemic.
Follow the latest vaccine rollout details on the Pioneer website on the Vaccine Tracker.