The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is going slower in Otter Tail County than it is in other areas because it is home to more people who qualify for the first round of the dose, officials said during the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioner meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

“We have a high volume of congregate care,” said county Public Health Director Jody Lien. “We’re very residential rich. Some counties don’t even have a hospital in their jurisdiction. ”

The vaccine goes first to the most vulnerable residents, those in long-term care facilities, and to health care workers, who are in the 1a group. Some counties have already finished vaccinating their 1a residents, Lien said, while Otter Tail County will likely finish its 1a residents by the end of January.

Not all who are qualified for the earliest round of vaccines are taking them, she said, as some have already had COVID and want to wait while some want others to get it first.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, as of Jan. 9, 72 Otter Tail County residents had completed their two-dose vaccine, and 1,669 people had received the first of the two doses, or 2.9% of the county population. Of surrounding counties, Douglas, Grant and Becker counties all had vaccinated 3% or more.

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Lien said there has been only one adverse reaction so far in a nine-county area that includes Otter Tail.

Otter Tail County has 151 active cases of COVID, and hospitalizations have dropped some, while deaths grew to 57, she said. One measure is showing a slight uptick in infections.

“Nothing that’s showing large concerning changes but definitely something we are watching,” she said.

“We are urging the public not to become too complacent,” she said. “These numbers are similar to where we were before we had that fall surge. Behavior changes in the way we interact with each other really has a high impact on what that virus does.”

The new variant that is more contagious has shown up in the Twin Cities area, with a couple linked to international travel and a couple with unknown origin. It’s not more dangerous, she said, but it does spread more readily. She continued to urge hand washing, social distancing and staying home if sick to prevent the spread.

COVID-19 has affected the county’s ability to advocate for mental health, advocates told the board.

A four-bed crisis unit has been nearly full since August, said manager Beth Nelson.

“It’s been nonstop,” she said. “We empty a bed out and we fill it immediately.”

Other action

  • The commission adopted One Watershed, One Plan agreements for the Buffalo-Red River and the Bois de Sioux watersheds. It also agreed to take over the wetland enforcement act for the City of Ottertail, as the county regularly deals with the act.

  • It met in closed session to discuss the purchase of a property in Pelican Rapids, which Public Works Director Rick West said would be used for a county garage to house snowplows and other county equipment. The property is 11 acres and includes a long-vacant house and an old turkey barn that would be torn down.

  • The county has received $1.15 million in federal dollars to help businesses affected by COVID. It has received 40 applications for that money. Priority will go to businesses that did not receive funding in a 2020 round and the decision will be announced Jan. 25.