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More vaccine appointments to become available

MARQUETTE — Marquette County Health Department staff will be calling residents 65 and older from the COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration list on Monday and Tuesday for vaccine appointments on Thursday and Friday, the department announced Friday.

There will be around 1,100 appointment slots available, officials said.

Staff will contact registrants based on their place on the list, using both online and phone registrations. The health department asks people who have pre-registered to pay attention for a phone call from 906-475-9977 or a similar number. Staff will make two attempts to call, leaving a message on the first attempt so the call recipient is prepared for the second call. If the call is missed, the registrant’s name will remain on the list for the next round of appointments.

The health department asks those who are scheduled for appointments not to arrive more than five minutes before the appointment time. Those who need to cancel their appointment or have received their vaccine elsewhere and are pre-registered are asked to call 906-475-7847 with as much advance notice as possible.

For those who are 65 and older and wish to be placed on the pre-registration list, call 906-475-7847 or visit mqthealth.org. Phone lines will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until further notice. Those who have registered online will receive an email confirmation, although some have reported the confirmation email is ending up in their spam email boxes. Residents are asked not to register more than once.

“Vaccine allotments have remained inconsistent and more information about future clinics will be released once it becomes available,” health department officials said in a release.

Ishpeming business cited for safety violations

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspected and issued COVID-19 emergency rule or general duty citations to 16 workplaces with violations for failing to protect workers and take safety precautions, including a local business.

J & N Electric, Inc., based in Ishpeming, was fined $400 for violations of COVID-19 workplace safety requirements for not developing a preparedness and response plan, no documentation of daily health screenings, not providing COVID-19 training and no face coverings worn on site, the State Emergency Operations Center said.

Total penalties, including other workplace violations, were $2,000. The inspection was initiated as a planned-programmed inspection.

Under MIOSHA’s emergency rules, businesses that resume in-person work must, among other things, have a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and provide thorough training to their employees that covers, at a minimum, workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of personal protection equipment and steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. An emergency rule citation carries a fine of up to $7,000.

The MIOSHA general duty clause requires an employer to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to the employee. A general duty clause citation carries a fine of up to $7,000.

The cited employers have 15 working days from receipt of the MIOSHA citations to contest the violations and penalties. Employers must provide proof to MIOSHA that abatement has been completed. A cited employer may choose to enter into a penalty reduction agreement with MIOSHA and agree to abate noted hazards by the abatement date provided within the citation and will receive a 50% reduction in penalties.

There are a variety of educational and consultative programs that businesses can participate in to ensure that they can comply, stay open and ultimately stay safe. The MIOSHA Ambassador Program offers education and one-on-one guidance to help businesses understand regulations on workplace safety.

Additional information about the Ambassador Program and other resources to ensure safe and healthy working conditions can be found at Michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety.

Weather affects vaccine shipments

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has been notified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that due to ongoing winter storm conditions in Kentucky and Tennessee, vaccine shipments this week continue to be delayed.

“We ask that Michiganders confirm their appointments prior to traveling and to have patience as providers seek to reschedule any appointments,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, in a statement. “Unfortunately, distribution of the vaccine in this circumstance is simply out of our control. Vaccine providers across the state are working hard to get 70% of Michiganders age 16 and older vaccinated with the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible.”

Late Wednesday, CDC provided an update about COVID-19 vaccine shipments in light of the ongoing winter storm conditions this week. This challenge is affecting vaccine shipments across the country.

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines were not shipped out on Monday due to weather conditions. A limited number of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine shipments are being processed this week.

Regarding the Moderna vaccines, severe weather impacted the McKesson distribution center in Memphis, Tennessee. Every aspect of distribution was impacted, including air and ground transport, as well as work force, including personnel for packing and sorting vaccines. Moderna vaccines were not shipped on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday due to adverse weather conditions.

The CDC is working with McKesson and their shipping partners to resume operations as soon as the weather abates. They anticipate a significant backlog of orders for distribution once operations resume, and every effort will be made to catch up as soon as possible while safely delivering the vaccines.

Last week, a number of Moderna vaccine shipments were pulled back to the McKesson depots because they were unable to be delivered due to weather conditions. A small number of these shipments were repacked and sent out on Sunday for delivery on Monday.

For the remaining shipments, McKesson will reschedule vaccine deliveries once weather conditions allow shipments to resume.

Veterans may schedule vaccines

The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center is providing a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Bay College campus in Escanaba from noon to 8 p.m. March 1. Eligible veterans who want the Moderna vaccine should call 906-774-3300 and dial extension 33115 between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to speak to a scheduler.

On Feb. 17, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that the Veterans Health Administration has vaccinated its one millionth veteran. Iron Mountain VA has been part of that success. The Iron Mountain VA began receiving vaccines in mid-December and has administered more than 6,000 vaccines to veterans and staff.

The facility has been contacting veterans using the latest CDC guidelines for prioritization and is now opening clinics for those veterans who would like to call and make an appointment. These vaccination clinics are open to any veteran who is enrolled and participating in VA services.

Walk-in COVID-19 testing is still offered at the main campus in Iron Mountain from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Legislators condemn extension

State Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township, and state Reps. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain; Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock; and John Damoose, R-Harbor Springs, released a joint statement on Thursday blasting what they called Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “quiet” extension of 10 p.m. curfews, 25% restaurant capacity limitations and restrictions on gatherings in private residences to March 29.

“Under the guise of resuming contact sports, the Whitmer administration — without announcement or specificity — quietly extended its arbitrary restrictions on restaurants and private gatherings announced earlier this month, for a total of two months,” they said. “This cunning move, made apparent yesterday, caught many restauranteurs and patrons off guard, as the original restrictions were slated to end Sunday.”

Because of the administration’s failure to highlight this action in any recent press release or conference, restaurants planning to resume normal capacity on Sunday now must plan for at least 40 more days of disruptions, lost revenue and limited service — all based on inconsistent or uncompelling data, the legislators said.

“The administration continues to use the improved numbers as proof to prolong its unilateral actions while ignoring the clear trends that preceded its actions and the successful rollbacks undertaken in other states,” they said. “The governor also fails to explain how our state, with such a high level of restrictions, has emerged with worse overall results than many other states with fewer restrictions.

“The continued untransparent, suffocative and heavy-handed style of governance from the executive branch must end now. It is high time for Michigan to join every other neighboring state in easing restrictions and resuming normal operations. Gov. Whitmer must stop her unilateral rule and work with the only lawmaking body — the Legislature — to accomplish this.”

The lawmakers encouraged residents who wish to share their thoughts on the recent extension order to email the MDHHS at COVID19@michigan.gov.

Companies partner for vaccines

Two Upper Peninsula companies, mBank and Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital, are collaborating to administer COVID-19 vaccines to community members.

According to InvestUP, mBank CEO and President Kelly George offered hospital access to mBank’s Manistique Business Center, which will serve as an alternate administration site on cold, weather-inclement days when vaccinations cannot otherwise be given at the drive-through clinic.

This partnership provides even more access to the COVID-19 vaccine for residents in the service area of Delta, Schoolcraft, Alger, Luce and Mackinac counties.

“I could have never imagined using a bank facility in a capacity like this, but we’re honored to do our part to make it easier for our community to get vaccinated,” George said in a statement. “We will continue to do anything we can to work towards mitigating this ongoing pandemic.”

Robert Crumb, CEO of SMH, said in a statement, “While a bank may seem like an unlikely location to receive a vaccine, the Business Center is easily accessible for community members and has the right space we need to administer the vaccines safely, despite weather disruptions.”

SMH has a limited supply of Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines available for those in the eligible priority groups in the five counties. Those interested in signing up to receive the vaccines can use SMH’s online scheduler or visit the SMH website at scmh.org to learn more.

Mammogram advice given

Aspirus Health reminds women of new recommendations for when to schedule a mammogram after receiving COVID-19 vaccines.

Aspirus is adopting the recommendations recently issued by The Society of Breast Imaging to avoid scheduling a mammogram for four to six weeks after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

Some patients may experience enlarged lymph nodes after receiving the vaccine, it said, which could hinder an accurate mammogram reading.

Swollen lymph nodes may be a sign that the body is making antibodies in response to the vaccine as intended. Vaccines of all types can result in temporary swelling of the lymph nodes.

Aspirus quoted Dr. Samir Kulkarni, lead radiologist and a member of the Society of Breast Imaging, as saying, “Enlarged lymph nodes may result in a patient being ‘called back’ for additional imaging and evaluation. Ensuring enough time has passed between COVID vaccines and a mammogram ensures that a patient doesn’t need to have a mammogram redone for additional evaluation.”

Aspirus offers screening mammograms to women beginning at age 40 and continuing annually. Free mammograms also may be available to those who qualify.

A mammogram can be scheduled by calling 715-847-2550. All Aspirus locations have implemented safety measures such as universal masking, socially distanced waiting areas and temperature checks along with other screening questions at entrances.

For more information, visit aspirus.org/breast.

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