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COVID-19 panel kicks off annual Crow Wing Energized health summit

Crow Wing Energized's mission is to improve the health and wellness of Crow Wing County residents through a focus on healthy choices, mental fitness, workplace wellness and community connections.

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More than 170 registered for Crow Wing Energized’s eighth annual Health and Wellness Virtual Summit conducted Friday, March 5, via Zoom. Screenshot / Frank Lee
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These days, talks of the coronavirus pandemic — and the local availability of the COVID-19 vaccines — are not far from most people’s lips or their minds.

Crow Wing Energized’s eighth annual Health and Wellness Virtual Summit Friday, March 5, began, not too surprisingly, with a Zoom discussion of both.

“There’s a lot of misinformation and, you know, shallow information out there so that we need to dig a little deeper into the facts before we move forward,” Dan Hegstad of Lakeland PBS said.

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Dan Hegstad is an author, speaker and videographer who has worked for more than two decades at Lakeland PBS. Submitted photo / Crow Wing Energized

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Hegstad moderated the panel of community leaders regarding the pandemic in the county. He asked panelists questions from the more than 170 people who registered for the summit.

“Question No. 1 is: ‘We are all feeling COVID fatigue. Why is it important to continue to practice social distancing, mask-wearing and good hygiene?’ and this is particularly true now when folks are getting the vaccination,” Hegstad asked the panel of health experts.

Dr. Peter Henry of Baxter became Essentia Health systemwide chief medical officer in 2016 and has almost four decades of experience, according to his biography, so he tackled the question.

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Dr. Peter Henry was director of the emergency department at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center. Submitted photo / Crow Wing Energized

“It’s very important to recognize that — even though we’re making significant progress in the 65-plus group in Minnesota — nationwide and in Minnesota, we’ve only vaccinated about 15% … so there’s still a large number of individuals that are potentially susceptible to this infection that we need to have protected,” Henry said.

The United States passed a milestone last month of surpassing 500,000 deaths from COVID-19, which represented the most reported COVID-19 deaths of any nation in the world.

“The vaccines, although very effective, are not 100% effective, as is no vaccine, and so we still don’t know how many people can get a mild degree of the COVID virus and still be able to transmit it, and that’s why it’s really important for us to continue to wear masks, social distance and so forth,” Henry said.

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Kyle Bauer is CEO of Cuyuna Regional Medical Center. Submitted photo / Crow Wing Energized

Cuyuna Regional Medical Center CEO Kyle Bauer said, “I think these vaccines are incredible. I mean it truly is a scientific minor miracle we have it this quickly, less than a year from when the virus really hit here. ... The light is at the end of the tunnel but it’s going to take a little bit longer.”

Crow Wing Energized is led and funded by the county, Essentia Health and the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, so County Administrator Tim Houle also offered his thoughts.


“I know I have COVID fatigue. And my guess is that almost everybody listening to this has COVID fatigue as well. The problem is that while I’m tired of COVID, COVID’s not tired of me.”

— Crow Wing County Administrator Tim Houle


“I know I have COVID fatigue. And my guess is that almost everybody listening to this has COVID fatigue as well. The problem is that while I’m tired of COVID, COVID’s not tired of me,” Houle said. “We need enough of the population to be vaccinated to protect all of us against that serious illness, serious hospitalization or the risk of death.”

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Crow Wing County Administrator Tim Houle is the chief operating officer for the county. Submitted photo / Crow Wing Energized

Another question asked at the summit was how the various COVID-19 vaccines were being rolled out to the community by health care providers in the region such as Essentia Health, Cuyuna Regional Medical Center and Lakewood Health System, and even by the county.

“We give it to the counties that need it the most, where the populations have the highest rate of being unvaccinated — currently, those individuals over the age of 65-plus,” Henry said.

Lakewood Health System President and CEO Tim Rice also addressed the question. Lakewood Health is a rural private nonprofit integrated health care system located in Staples.

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Tim Rice

“We are never really sure what level of vaccine or how much we’re going to be getting. We have just been having people call into Lakewood and get on a list, but we’ve been following the guidelines about who we’re vaccinating,” Rice said.

Rice said Lakewood Health’s waitlist was about 1,000 at one point but recently decreased to about 300. He also mentioned Lakewood Health, just like Cuyuna Regional Medical Center, purchased ice fish houses to quickly vaccinate people in the parking lot.

RELATED: Vaccine available for 65+ March 6
“We have them out in our parking lot. That way once we have everything already, when we have the vaccines, we make a call, set up an appointment and they just drive up. They don’t have to get out of their cars. … And they can be on their way after they wait 15 minutes,” Rice said.

Bauer said, “As Tim mentioned, we also bought a fish house that we originally were using for mobile testing, and now we’ve converted that into our mobile vaccine platform. … That’s definitely a Minnesota solution there.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL .

I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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