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County working on COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration

MARQUETTE — It probably is frustrating, but patience continues to be needed during the vaccine rollout process.

The Marquette County Health Department said it is establishing a pre-registration process for people age 65 and older to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

This will allow individuals to get their names on a list for an appointment. When MCHD receives confirmation regarding how much vaccine will be allocated to the health department, it will use the list to call individuals to schedule appointments to receive the vaccine.

The MCHD stresses that it’s important for the public to know that the pre-registration process is being prepared and is not yet operational, so people are asked to not call the health department to pre-register.

The health department is increasing infrastructure and staff to manage the process, it said, and further details will be provided in the next few days.

Funding for rural hospitals announced

U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow on Tuesday announced a $2.5 million federal grant to the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to address staffing shortages at rural hospitals across the state.

The funding, awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor, will help hospitals in rural communities throughout the state hire local workers for open staff positions.

Peters and Stabenow both sent letters to the Department of Labor in December supporting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s and MDLEO’s application for this grant.

“Since the onset of this pandemic, too many doctors, nurses, custodial workers and administrators at rural hospitals across Michigan have had to overcome debilitating staffing shortages to treat their patients,” Peters said in a statement. “It is critical that each of our frontline health care centers have the staffing and the resources needed to navigate this unprecedented public health crisis.

“I am pleased that this funding will help more of our rural hospitals bolster their staffs and better care for their communities.”

Stabenow also issued a statement.

“Our rural health care providers have experienced overwhelming demand and the need for more trained health care professionals has never been greater,” she said. “These funds come at a much-needed time as our small towns respond to the COVID-19 and opioid crises.”

Susan Corbin, acting director of the MDLEO, said in a statement that these funds will support the efforts of Michigan Rural Enhanced Access to Careers in Healthcare, which reaches into rural communities to address a critical health care workforce shortage.

“Ensuring our state’s rural health care providers are able to find high-quality talent will improve their ability to provide lifesaving and community-supporting services,” Corbin said.

Town hall tonight

To help Michigan residents make an informed decision to vaccinate when vaccine becomes available to them, the state of Michigan is hosting a series of community town halls.

The first virtual discussion, set for 4 to 5 p.m. today, will focus on the faith-based community. Residents will have the opportunity to join the discussion with multiple faith-based and health leaders to learn about the safety, efficacy and importance of the COVID-19 vaccines for safely reopening Michigan.

In the coming months, Michigan will also host town halls for the minority community and the general public in partnership with public health and community leaders. The town halls will be live-streamed at Facebook.com/MichiganHHS.

Survey to help businesses

Due to the continued economic stress from COVID-19, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is tracking the ongoing effects on businesses across its Ninth District, a region that includes the Upper Peninsula, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana and parts of Wisconsin.

The bank is partnering with state and local chambers of commerce, economic development associations and other business groups in each state to collect their feedback through a survey.

The survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/MinneapolisFedSurveyWinter2021.

The bank expects to share data and respondent comments to better spotlight challenges facing all businesses. Survey input will help the Federal Reserve System shape monetary policy to help businesses survive the economic challenges during the pandemic.

Builders event changed

The event formerly known as the U.P. Builders Show for the past 50 years will be known as the U.P. Home & Garden Show this year.

The Home Builders Association of the Upper Peninsula will hold the event April 23-25 at Westwood Mall in Marquette Township.

The change was made to accommodate the COVID-19 landscape.

According to uphomeandgardenshow.org, there will be outdoor vendor spaces, a Pinterest booth that simulates the popular app and kids construction packs.

Admission will be free.

Regional COVID-19 update issued

The Luce-Mackinac-Alger-Schoolcraft Health Department has issued an update on the COVID-19 situation in that region.

“While much attention and hope has turned to the beginning rollout of the vaccine for COVID-19, it is important that we not lose sight that the coronavirus is still in our communities and continues to spread,” the update read. “LMAS District Health Department calls on all of our residents and visitors in Luce, Mackinac, Alger and Schoolcraft counties to not give up on the necessary protocols to protect each other, including the proper wearing of masks, staying home when you don’t feel well and not gathering with those not in your immediate household.”

Since the beginning of January, it noted, the number of cases in the LMAS counties has risen by just over 10%. However, in Alger County, there has been an 80% increase in new cases from Jan. 6 through Tuesday compared with the previous two-week period. Cases are tied to gatherings without masks, a lack of distancing and from some who have broken isolation or quarantine guidelines.

As the new virus variant B.1.1.7 has recently been found in Lower Michigan and is about 50% more infectious, LMAS stressed that now is not the time to stop what it called “the small things” necessary to keep case numbers down.

With the beginning of vaccinations there is reason to hope, it said, but vaccine demand far outweighs supply. LMAS and its regional hospitals are working to get as many vaccinations administered as quickly as possible. Each facility places the necessary weekly order for vaccine, but sometimes these orders are only partially filled, or not filled at all.

“We must all be patient with this process,” LMAS said. “Vaccine manufacturers are not just working to supply the United States, but countries all around the world.”

Updates about any open appointments at the hospitals or through LMAS will be posted on LMASDHD.org, the LMASDHD Facebook page, and through local newspapers and radio.

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