Isanti County Health and Safety Coordinator Molly Wiemann is starting to sound like a broken record when it comes to providing COVID-19 vaccination updates to the Isanti County Board of Commissioners: the county is working very hard to vaccinate as many residents as possible, but the county continues to be one of the lowest percentages in the state.
As of June 7, 35% of Isanti County residents have received at least one dose, which is third lowest ahead of only Kanabec County’s 34% and Todd County’s 30%. By comparison, Chisago County currently sits at 47%. The state of Minnesota as a whole has over 47% of residents who are considered fully vaccinated.
Another update was given to Isanti County Community Health Board June 2 regarding the vaccination rates in Isanti County, where the county is at, and what the roadblocks are in getting all residents vaccinated.
Not only has public health provided multiple vaccine clinics, but its also conducted polling to see who is interested in getting the vaccine and who is not, according to Wiemann. Information has been placed in the newspapers and on social media, and public health is currently working on a radio ad, she added.
“We’ve really tried to reach every outlet we can with outreach and education as we move forward with this,” Wiemann said, noting that public health will take time to re-evaluate the needs of the community and the county as it looks at vaccination rates.
The county will be hosting vaccination clinics every Monday beginning June 7 at the Isanti County Government Center offering all three vaccines – Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson and Johnson. The clinics will be walk-in or pre-register, whichever residents prefer.
“We’ll also keep looking at the possibility of continuing to do mobile clinics, because we do see that they are pretty popular,” Wiemann said, noting one mobile clinic at the Isanti County Fairgrounds vaccinated 20 people in an hour. Mobile clinics can also take place at upcoming community events and fairs.
“I just want to make it very clear that we are doing a lot of work and we’re trying to make the best use of our time, too,” she continued, noting there are only eight injectors in public health and the county has other programs that exist. “We’re trying to make sure that we are managing the flow, because we are seeing some burnout.”
In evaluating what the community needs and wants from public health, the county will be partnering with Minnesota Department of Public Health to do a pilot outreach program. “Hopefully it’s a great way for us to poll our whole community and see is it really vaccine hesitancy, is it convenience issues, is it more education – what do we need to give our community,” Wiemann said.
Isanti County Commissioner Terry Turnquist praised Wiemann and Isanti County Public Health for the job they have been doing in getting residents vaccinated, noting they basically developed a program from nothing.
He then asked if it was vaccine hesitancy that’s holding Isanti County residents back from being vaccinated.
“That’s a great question, and that’s a hard question to answer,” Wiemann said. “I think it’s a little bit of everything. I think there’s some politics that play a role in it, I think there’s hesitancy because it’s a new vaccine, I think it’s education, there’s three vaccines and they all have different efficacies and they all have different adverse reactions. So, I think there’s a little bit of everything and I think it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, but I do think hesitancy does play a role in why Isanti County’s rates a little lower. We’re a pretty conservative county, so, I don’t want to say that’s a true fast fact, but I think that is what we’re kind of seeing.”
Turnquist also said that someone who had COVID-19 said he did not need to get the vaccine, asking Wiemann if there is any truth to that statement. Wiemann said people can get COVID-19 multiple times, reiterating that Isanti County Public Health wants everybody to get vaccinated to create herd immunity and protect residents. She said it all goes back to education, and there is a lot of misinformation out there that public health needs to combat, as well.
Pilot training program approved
“This is kind of a rare, unique opportunity that we have, and the Happiness Advantage/Orange Frog team has agreed to provide a pilot workshop with no commitment from the county to share this initiative, which would be a consideration for the board for potential recovery plan funds,” said Isanti County Administrator Julia Lines. “The whole goal is to combat the mental well-being impact the pandemic has had, and this goal is very well-researched and there’s a lot of proven outcomes for this initiative in other school districts and cities, but never have they tackled a whole county.”
The pilot workshop will take place Thursday and Friday, June 10 and 11 and there are a lot of community members interested in participating, despite the short notice, Lines said.
“We will learn about this, and then on June 14 when we have committee of the whole we can share what these community representatives thought of the pilot and if the county board is really interested in it, I think this will be a unique opportunity to promote kindness and well-being and mental well-being, especially, throughout this county and then the board consider a whole initiative if all these community partners are invested. I think we need that buy-in from all the community leaders if we’re going to move forward with this to really make positive change.”
She noted the organization is willing to fly in and provide a lot of resources for the workshop, without a financial commitment. “They are pretty confident we’re going to love it and they are also excited about the opportunity of sort of a big research project to see if this work can create positive outcomes at the end of the day. So, they’ll include us in their research and their journals and their books and everything that they are doing,” Lines said. “It’s a win-win situation and pretty soon hopefully you’ll start seeing some orange frogs pop up all across the county and spread some happiness and some well-being.”
If the county decides to participate in the initiative after the initial workshop, American Recovery Plan funds received by the county will be used to fund the program.
Isanti residents oppose appointing auditor/treasurer
A handful of Isanti County residents voiced their opinion opposing appointing the county auditor/treasurer during the public comment section of the Isanti County Board meeting, stating they did not want their right to vote to be taken away. The board had previously tabled any action on this topic during their April 7 meeting following a public hearing, however they have yet to place it back onto an upcoming agenda.
Two additional Isanti County residents spoke during public comment session asking that the county evaluate whether it is possible to provide a second outlet onto County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 5 for the Fairway Greens South development that will extend Wendover Street Northeast in Isanti to create an additional 45 lots for single-family homes. Their concerns are the additional traffic and pubilc safety. See the Isanti City Council article starting on page 1 for more information.