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Plans gearing up for COVID-19 vaccine pilot in Marshall

MARSHALL — The first of hundreds of planned COVID-19 vaccines will be administered at a Marshall pilot site starting this week.

State and local organizers are preparing for people with vaccination appointments to start arriving at Marshall Middle School on Friday and Saturday.

Southwest Health and Human Services Public Health Director Carol Biren said preparing for the pilot program in Marshall was an “all hands on deck” situation. While the state and the Minnesota National Guard are playing key roles in running the vaccination events, Biren said area public health, Lyon County Emergency Management, Avera Marshall Medical Center, and local volunteers are all involved as well.

Local planning for the Marshall vaccination event has been going on since last Friday, Biren said.

“We are very excited to be able to host this pilot event for our community,” said Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams. Williams said MPS staff have met remotely with pilot organizers over the past few days to plan logistics.

Marshall was one of nine communities around Minnesota chosen as pilot sites for the next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations, the Minnesota Department of Health announced earlier this week. Although vaccine supplies are limited, the state is starting to make them available for teachers, child care workers and people age 65 and older.

Minnesota has continued to see deaths from COVID-19, including in Lyon County. On Wednesday, the MDH reported that two more Lyon County residents, both in their 80s, had died. Lyon County has had a total of 38 deaths, and 2,940 confirmed COVID-19 cases, since the start of the pandemic.

There won’t be any walk-ins accepted at the community pilot sites, the MDH said this week. It’s partly because of the amount of vaccine available, but organizers also need to make sure to follow COVID safety precautions.

“We need social distancing and masking to keep people safe,” Biren said. But even with the limits, a total of 1,000 COVID-19 vaccination appointments were planned for the Marshall site this week, she said. Half the vaccine appointments would be for teachers and child care workers, and half for seniors. People would be coming to the Marshall pilot site from across a 17-county region, she said.

The hard thing about the pilot vaccination events is that vaccine supplies are limited, Biren said.

On Tuesday, thousands of seniors across Minnesota tried to make appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine — enough to crash the registration website, the Associated Press reported.

As of Wednesday, the MDH said appointment slots are full for this week, and more appointments will be listed online at mn.gov/vaccine on Jan. 26. Eligible Minnesotans can also make an appointment by calling 833-431-2053. Educators and child care workers are being asked not to try to make an appointment unless they’ve been told by their employers that they’ve been selected to receive a vaccine. Because of the limited vaccine supplies, schools are being asked to prioritize which employees are immunized first, the MDH said.

At the same time the state is rolling out vaccine events at the nine community pilot sites, SWHHS is continuing to give vaccines to emergency medical workers and long-term care residents and staff, Biren said. SWHHS staff will be holding vaccine clinics in Murray County and Rock County over the next couple of weeks, she said.

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