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Crow Wing public health seeks employer partners for vaccine clinics

Grand View Lodge is set to host a clinic for its employees and their families this week, and Public Health Supervisor Michelle Moritz said she's hoping more businesses will serve as COVID-19 vaccination sites.

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A healthcare worker prepares a Pfizer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
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Grand View Lodge isn’t typically a venue for vaccination clinics, but this Thursday, April 22, the major local employer will host one for its employees and their families.

“We’re really emphasizing safety,” said Merrick Dresnin, director of human resources at the Nisswa resort. “We’re not mandating vaccines, but we want to have that option as available and as convenient for our employees and their families as possible.”

RELATED: Essentia Health’s Brainerd clinic accepts walk-ins for COVID-19 vaccine
It’s the latest example of collaboration between the lodge and Crow Wing County Public Health — a beneficial partnership for the business as it grappled with how to respond to any number of challenges wrought by COVID-19, Dresnin said.

“Grand View Lodge, just as any other businesses, has had its challenges with the pandemic on many levels, and when we’ve had problems … in terms of COVID positives amongst our employee population, we very quickly worked to partner with Crow Wing County,” he said. “ … That partnership has allowed for very educated responses to inquiries from our guests, to inquiries from our employees. And as we gear up for another very, very busy summer … we’re really emphasizing safety.”

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Merrick Dresnin, human resources director of Grand View Lodge. 2021 submitted photo

Dresnin said the resort is aggressively recruiting employees ahead of what could be a record-breaking season of not just tourism but weddings and other family events postponed during the previous year. A year into the pandemic, COVID-19 safety protocols and response procedures are baked into employee training and Dresnin said the business feels prepared with summer right around the corner.

But preparation doesn’t change the fact some employees may be temporarily sidelined due to exposure to the virus, either at work or in the community. While Grand View has not closed any of its facilities because of staffing issues related to quarantine or isolation, Dresnin said they’ve followed federal and state guidance to keep those with potential exposure away from the workplace.

RELATED: 52% of Minnesotans have had at least 1 dose of COVID-19 vaccine

“If more people are vaccinated, certainly that’s going to decrease the amount of people who we have to ask to quarantine and take out of the business environment. There’s no question, at least from my perspective, it’s going to help us economically from a business perspective if people are vaccinated,” Dresnin said. “Everyone has a choice, and we’re going to respect that choice. But I do think it will help.”

Public Health Supervisor Michelle Moritz said she and her staff have actively sought other business partnerships to distribute vaccine on location as part of a broader effort to get as many shots into arms in the county as possible.

“We are happy to come even if it is 10 employees that want to get vaccinated,” Moritz said. “We’re just trying to bring the vaccine opportunity as close as possible to those that have not had the opportunity to be vaccinated, or they have declined it in the past and now have changed their minds. With the circulating variant being the biggest strain of virus that they’re detecting right now, in Minnesota in general, they’re seeing that this is spreading much easier. And so we just know that there’s going to be people that change their mind as they see more people test positive and start to see it impact businesses and school and sports.”

RELATED: A family's shock and reality of catching COVID after being vaccinated

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Moritz said despite outreach, they haven’t successfully recruited other businesses to host clinics beyond Central Lakes College, which is set to offer a clinic to both employees and the community at large Wednesday.

“We’re still reaching out to businesses to see who would want to have us come to them. I know I have dates available next week, and we definitely have vaccine available to get out to our community,” Moritz said. “I’m just looking for a willing host.”

As of Sunday, 49% of Crow Wing County’s 16-plus population had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — more than 25,000 residents. This puts Crow Wing second in the region only to Aitkin County, which sports a vaccination rate of 51%. As a much smaller county, this means nearly 7,000 of those over 16 who live in Aitkin County have one or both doses.

Update on cases

New cases of COVID-19 were down in the region and the state compared to recent trends, with 19 new cases reported in Crow Wing County Tuesday. It’s likely too early to say whether the recent spike is on a downward slope, however — case counts tend to be lower on Mondays and Tuesdays, reflecting a smaller number of tests completed over weekends.

While case numbers are steady to down, hospitalizations among Crow Wing County residents jumped by a notable margin between Monday and Tuesday. Monday’s report included four residents, while Tuesday saw seven new hospitalizations added. Hospitalizations are typically viewed as a lagging indicator, increasing in the weeks following reports of positive cases.

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COVID-19 data as of April 20

  • Aitkin — 1,293 (+9 since Friday), with 36 deaths; 6,947 residents have received at least one vaccine dose, representing 51% of the county’s 16-plus population.

  • Cass — 2,510 (+23) with 26 deaths; 10,213 residents with at least one dose, 43%.

  • Crow Wing — 6,216 (+94), with 86 deaths; 25,345 residents with at least one dose, 49%.

  • Mille Lacs — 2,847 (+52), with 48 deaths; 9,465 residents with at least one dose, 46%.

  • Morrison — 3,968 (+43), with 59 deaths; 10,515 residents with at least one dose, 40%.

  • Todd — 2,694 (+17), with 30 deaths; 6,858 residents with at least one dose, 36%.

  • Wadena — 1,451 (+16), with 21 deaths; 4,577 residents with at least one dose, 43%.

NOTE: These numbers are cumulative since March 21, 2020, and many are out of isolation.

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Merrick Dresnin, human resources director of Grand View Lodge. 2021 submitted photo

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Merrick Dresnin, human resources director of Grand View Lodge. 2021 submitted photo

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Merrick Dresnin, human resources director of Grand View Lodge. 2021 submitted photo

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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