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County Commission meeting reveals low pre-registration numbers for Alerus Center's vaccine clinic

Debbie Swanson, director of Grand Forks Public Health Department, was disappointed with the low amount of pre-registrations for Wednesday’s vaccine event at the Alerus Center in which those who receive a vaccination also get a $50 “Support Small - Love Local” e-gift card.

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The Grand Forks County Office Building, photographed on Nov. 23, 2015. Photo by Nick Nelson/Grand Forks Herald

The Grand Forks County Commission received an update from the public health department regarding COVID-19 progress.

Debbie Swanson, director of Grand Forks Public Health, was disappointed with the low amount of pre-registrations for Wednesday’s vaccine event at the Alerus Center in which those who receive a vaccination also get a $50 “Support Small - Love Local” e-gift card.

“Unfortunately, our numbers for pre-registered (participants) are pretty low for that event,” Swanson said. “We would really, really like to see that be much higher. We were hoping the incentive would bring people in for their first doses. That has not been happening in large numbers.”

As of the meeting, 11,728 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Grand Forks County since the beginning of the pandemic. The week of Sept. 12-18 saw a slight decline in new cases, but Swanson said with 43 new cases reported for Tuesday means another uptick is inevitable. Vaccinations also slightly decreased during the week.

Swanson also presented a heat map for cases in the county by age. All age groups are approaching a “red” category after some older age groups dropped down to green during summer months. Swanson noted that the 40-49 age group reported a higher number of cases than others over the past week. She was also concerned about the rise in cases in the 10-19 age group.

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“This is likely students participating in sports and other activities where there’s some transmission in clusters,” Swanson said.

Swanson said if projections continue on their current path, Grand Forks County can expect an upward trend in COVID-19 cases over the next several weeks.

“That’s likely due to what happens with seasonal influenza viruses, which is people move indoors,” Swanson said. “There’s less activity outdoors, so we tend to see more virus transmission. We’d like to see more vaccination so we can try to keep that curb on a lower trend.”

Swanson also shared a statistic she received during a phone call with the North Dakota Department of Health Tuesday morning confirming a higher average age for COVID-19 hospitalizations among vaccinated people than unvaccinated people.

“The average age of hospitalized patients right now who are unvaccinated is 56.9, and for those who are vaccinated, the age is in the 70s,” Swanson said. “So you can see that as people get older and their immune system wanes a little bit, they are more prone to be hospitalized after vaccination, but the unvaccinated represents a much greater age trend downward.”

In other news, the commission heard a proposal by County Engineer Nick West to consider applying for a $4.4 million grant application to pay for a new bridge.

“I’ve had some discussions with the Department of Emergency Services in Bismarck, and we’ve been discussing a Brick Grant for a new bridge on 62nd Avenue between Lake Drive and East Lake Drive, that spot, and putting a bridge across there,” West said. “The preliminary cost/benefit analysis has been very good.”

Applications for the grant are due January 2022, and the results will be announced some time in June or July 2022. The grant also carries a 25% local cost share responsibility, meaning that the county would have to pay for just over $1.1 million of it.

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The commission is moving forward with looking into it, but a decision will not happen until more information is gathered.

Jacob Holley joined the Grand Forks Herald as its business reporter in June 2021.

Holley's beat at the Grand Forks Herald is broad and includes a variety of topics, including small business, national trends and more.

Readers can reach Holley at jholley@gfherald.com.Follow him on Twitter @JakeHolleyMedia.
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