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Mahnomen County has one of Minnesota’s highest vaccination rates

Plus: flu practically non-existent in Minnesota this year; Caledonia school grapples with diversity; St. Olaf sees second departure of two employees of color at once; and more.

COVID vaccine
Erin Clark/Pool via REUTERS
Working together. MPR’s Dan Gunderson reports: “Ever since Minnesota began distributing coronavirus vaccines to the public, Mahnomen County in northwestern Minnesota has consistently run ahead of the pack, vaccinating at rates that far surpass most of its peers. As of this week, a full 85 percent of people 65 and older in the county have been vaccinated. … Mahnomen’s unique status as the only Minnesota county located entirely within the borders of a Native American reservation is a key factor behind the county’s rapid move toward broad community vaccination. Public health leaders at the White Earth Nation and Mahnomen County credit that high vaccination rate to close collaboration between the tribe and the county to efficiently get those doses to residents.”

Here’s some good news. Fox9’s Courtney Godfrey reports: “While the world’s focus is on COVID-19, those at Hennepin Healthcare’s urgent care in Minneapolis are still testing for the virus that usually dominates these winter months. … “It’s the same swab that we use for the COVID-19 test that we use for influenza, so it’s very easy for us to test for both,” explained Hennepin Healthcare Urgent Care nurse Lisa Gallick. … But not many tests are coming back positive. The flu, usually peaking around this time, is practically non-existent this year.

Conversations in Caledonia. MPR’s Catharine Richert reports: “When Madison Winjum helped start a club aimed at diversity and inclusiveness at her southern Minnesota high school, she didn’t expect it to be controversial. … Thousands of public high schools have similar organizations. … ‘We kind of just want to hear people’s experiences without judgment, try to understand them, and spread awareness and more acceptance,’ said the Caledonia Area High School senior. … But in late January, the Caledonia Argus newspaper published a letter to the editor written by the school’s football coach, Carl Fruechte. … In it, Fruechte wrote, ‘If the year 2020 has taught us anything, It is that free thinking isn’t allowed when it comes to diverse issues. Who gets to decide what is acceptable and not acceptable speech?’ And he asked whether people who think homosexuality is wrong would be welcome to join the club. … ‘Will Christian students be allowed in the group to agree to disagree with your opinion?’ he wrote.”

What’s up at St. Olaf? In Sahan Journal, Becky Z. Dernbach and Eli Tan report: “Students had a sinking feeling of déjà vu earlier this month when two staff members of color announced their resignations from St. Olaf College within days of each other. … On February 9, the student newspaper, the Olaf Messenger, published music librarian Ellen Ogihara’s resignation letter to her colleagues, which stated she was leaving the college due to racial bias and ‘extreme microaggressions.’ This news came a week after Bruce King, the school’s vice president for equity and inclusion, sent an all-campus email sharing his plans to depart St. Olaf at the end of February to move to Chicago. … It was the second time since June that two employees of color had announced their resignations at once.

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