Hubbard County is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases, but vaccinations are limited.

“We have definitely trended down, which is the statewide trend as well,” CHI St. Joseph’s Community Health Director Marlee Morrison told the Hubbard County Board Tuesday.

After a peak number of 651 cases in November, there were 194 in December, 134 in January and 16 in February, thus far.

As of Thursday, Hubbard County has a total of 1,573 confirmed cases and 39 deaths.

Morrison called the lower positivity rate “a real blessing since community health has been pretty busy with the vaccination effort.”

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As of Feb. 5, community health had received 650 first doses and 300 second doses of the Moderna vaccine through the Minnesota Department of Health and its partnership with the Northwest Minnesota Hospital Coalition. They also received 102 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Morrison said they have administered 542 first doses and 58 second doses to priority group 1a, which are healthcare workers, residents of long-term care facilities and some group 1b, which are school staff and some community members who are 65 or older. The Pfizer doses were specifically allocated to those 65-plus “so we were able to get those out to the community as well. That second dose clinic will be next week,” Morrison said. Second dose clinics are being scheduled for the Moderna vaccine as well.

This week, Morrison said her department was allocated another 200 doses specifically for healthcare workers and school staff.

The good news, she said, is that local clinics like Sanford and Essentia are also starting to receive doses for the 65-and-older group.

“We’re in a little bit of race right now to get a little more herd immunity, as far as vaccination goes, to hopefully avoid a resurgence with the variants that we’ve seen,” she continued.

Morrison added, “It’s been quite an effort. We find out week to week how much vaccine we’re getting at a time and who it is allocated to, then we work quickly because we have 72 hours to administer the vaccine.”

The Moderna vial contains 10 doses and must be administered within six hours of opening.

“We don’t want to waste any vaccine because it’s very precious,” Morrison said. “A lot of our planning is trying to make sure we’re giving in doses of 10.”

Once the Pfizer vaccine is put in fridge temps, it must be used within five days, she added.

Morrison explained that clinics are scheduled based on vaccine allocation to Hubbard County. “They fill extremely fast right now,” she said. CHI St. Joseph’s Health Community Health is not taking names for vaccine registration. Residents are asked to monitor their website (www.CHISJH.org), Facebook page, newspapers and radio for vaccine clinic updates.

County commissioner Dave De La Hunt asked if community health is prepared to ramp up vaccinations more widely when there is a greater supply.

Morrison said their system is scalable. They will look at larger venues. One consideration, she noted, is anyone receiving their first dose must be observed for 15 minutes afterward. “That is probably our biggest logistical trip-up,” she said.

County commissioner Tom Krueger asked if the effectiveness is living up to the rates in the clinical trials.

Yes, Morrison replied, adding that both vaccines are around 95 percent effective.

The rates of adverse reactions continue to low, she noted. The most common side effect is a sore arm. After the second dose, Morrison said they are seeing the body’s expected immune response: achiness, chills or fever, which resolve within 24 hours.

For more information, call at CHI St. Joseph’s Community Health at 237-5464.