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Hospitals give 1st COVID-19 vaccines in Crow Wing

Health care workers were identified as first priority in Phase 1a of vaccine distribution, per the Minnesota Department of Health allocation guidelines.

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Dr. Greg Davis, a pulmonologist, receives the first COVID-19 vaccination in the Brainerd lakes area Monday, Dec. 20, at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd. Submitted photo

Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, is a day history was made in Crow Wing County — the two hospital systems administered their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Health care workers at both Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd and Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby received vaccinations Monday. Receiving the first vaccine early Monday morning was Essentia’s Dr. Greg Davis, pulmonologist. Davis was expected to be followed by more than 110 other frontline workers at Essentia on Monday, according to a news release.

“Nine long months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Essentia Health was thrilled to take the first step toward herd immunity and ending this public health crisis,” the release stated. “ … It’s expected that by the end of the first day, over 110 front-line workers, those directly involved in caring for COVID-positive patients, will be vaccinated against a virus that has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 Americans.”

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Wes Bickler, Essentia Health pharmacy manager, prepares the first COVID-19 vaccines for use at the facility Monday, Dec. 21. Submitted photo


At CRMC, registered nurse Jacqueline Holmes of Deerwood was the first employee to receive the vaccination administered by infection preventionist and registered nurse Jenna Ritter Monday afternoon.

“I’m very excited because this is not just for us as healthcare providers — it is for our patients and everyone else. It’s for the grandparents who haven’t been able to hug their grandkids, the elderly in isolation, the kids who want to get back to school and have some normalcy. … I’m so excited, it’s a big day,” Holmes stated in a news release.

Certified physician assistant Jen Asche of Brainerd was the second CRMC employee to be vaccinated by employee health and wellness registered nurse Sarah Dorschner.

“I’m excited to be a pioneer, this is something in my lifetime I’ve not had the opportunity to do. I’m so excited to pave the way,” Asche stated.

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Certified physician assistance Jen Asche of Brainerd is the second Cuyuna Regional Medical Center employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccination Monday, Dec. 21. Submitted photo

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 10, requires two doses 21 days apart to be fully effective. Health care workers were identified as first priority in Phase 1a of vaccine distribution, per the Minnesota Department of Health allocation guidelines.


“We hope that there will be a robust continuous supply of vaccine so as to move quickly to other prioritized groups and the general community. It is very important that everyone realize that we need to vaccinate at least 70% of our population to reach ‘herd immunity’ and stop the spread of the virus,” stated Dr. Peter Henry, chief medical officer for Essentia Health, in the release.

Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center was selected by the state to be a hub distribution point for the Pfizer vaccine because it can store the vaccine doses at the super cold temperatures required.

Last week, Essentia Health in Brainerd received its initial shipment of 2,340 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. That allotment included 588 doses for Essentia Health, with the remainder for distribution to several other hospitals in central Minnesota. Additional COVID-19 vaccine allocations are expected weekly and will vary in quantity, Essentia reported.

Dr. Rebecca Holcomb of Essentia Health's emergency department receives her first COVID-19 vaccination Monday, Dec. 21. Submitted photo

Crow Wing County was allocated 200 doses for emergency medical service personnel and community vaccinators, according to Michelle Moritz, Crow Wing County public health supervisor. Community vaccinators are those from pharmacy locations and public health who will be administering vaccines as part of the priority guidance directed by state and federal governments.

“The vaccine is 95% effective which is very high for any vaccine but you need to have both doses and full immune response is not reached until 1-2 weeks after the second dose of the vaccine,” Henry stated. “The initial trials show the vaccine is safe and has gone through all of the required steps for a vaccine to be brought to market for public use. I want to stress the importance of continuing to practice social distancing, good hand hygiene and wearing a mask while in public.”

Angela Schilling, emergency department nursing director and registered nurse, echoed those thoughts.


“This is the first step in the right direction, however it’s important to continue to take the current precautions as advised by the CDC,” she stated.

Zachary Anderson, registered nurse in the Marilyn Covey Heart & Vascular Center, receives his COVID-19 vaccination before starting his shift Monday, Dec. 21. Submitted photo

Essentia stated it will adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health department guidelines for the distribution of vaccines. The first phase includes health care providers and residents of long-term care facilities. They will be followed by essential workers, such as teachers, police officers and firefighters, then adults with high-risk medical conditions and those over the age of 65. Waitlists are not part of either CDC or state health department guidelines at this time.

The timeline for other populations will be determined by the rollout of additional vaccines and quantities. Visit https://bit.ly/3azbE0z for more information.

Essentia Health stated it is important to note until a large percentage of the population is vaccinated, wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and frequent hand-washing continue to be necessary.

New cases dropping, deaths remain high

Lower numbers of new cases in the state and region continued over the weekend, with Monday marking the first time the total number of new cases in the state was below 2,000 since the end of October.

But deaths due to complications of COVID-19 continue to come in high numbers — between Friday and Monday, the deaths of 214 Minnesotans were reported by the Minnesota Department of Health. Among them were 12 residents in the seven-county region: three Cass County residents, ages 70-74, 80-84 and 90-94; three Mille Lacs County residents, ages 65-69, 70-74 and 75-79; two Crow Wing County residents, both ages 90-94; two Todd County residents, ages 60-64 and 85-89; and two Morrison County residents, ages 70-74 and 90-94.


COVID-19 data as of Dec. 21

  • Aitkin — 974 (+25 since Friday, Dec. 18), with 31 deaths.

  • Cass — 1,853 (+26), with 17 (+3) deaths.

  • Crow Wing — 4,401 (+61), with 51 (+2) deaths.

  • Mille Lacs — 1,970 (+32), with 42 (+3) deaths.

  • Morrison — 2,841 (+36), with 37 (+2) deaths.

  • Todd — 2,189 (+36), with 23 (+2) deaths.

  • Wadena — 1,079 (+32), with 10 deaths.

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

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