Episode from the podcastMinnesota Native News

COVID News from Indian Health Services and Honors for a Past Mentor

Released Wednesday, 27th January 2021
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HEADLINES: This week on Minnesota Native News, we hear how the vaccine roll out is going at regional Indian Health Services clinics and we honor the life of Laura Waterman Wittstock.
The Bemidji Area Indian Health Service plans to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine to 150-thousand people across Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. But vaccine supply will need to pick up dramatically to make that happen by the end of 2021. Melissa Townsend talked with IHS Bemidji Area Director Daniel Frye about the situation. 
The Bemidji office of the IHS is actually the regional headquarters and serves tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. This fall tribes were asked to count the number people they need to vaccinate. 
FRYE:  We are roughly at about 150-thousand in the three states who will need the vaccine. (:07)
Daniel Frye, IHS Director for the Bemidji area says that includes elders, adults, children - tribal members and those who work in tribal agencies and enterprises. IHS began weekly vaccine deliveries to clinics on December 14th. But they are not able to get vaccine to every IHS clinic every week.
FRYE: At this point in the vaccine distribution stage, we don’t make any requests. Basically the way that it’s working is that we get a weekly allotment.  We have on average 2000 doses that come in weekly and with that, we break it up in increments in 100 and cover as many sites as we possibly can. (:22)
Frye is hopeful that vaccine production will increase. At a minimum, he’d like to see every tribe receive vaccine every week to keep their vaccination operation going. And ideally, he’d like to supply enough vaccine for tribes to roll out their mass vaccination plans.
FRYE: The tribal sites and our federal sites have done phenomenal job of putting together these plans to roll out mass vaccination clinics where they can run through 4-500 peel in one day. And that’s what we are looking to dots have that larger impact. (:13)
So far most tribes in the Bemidji area have been able to vaccinate all their essential workers.  Now they are working to vaccinate elders 65 and older.  And Frye says it will take a while to vaccinate this entire population.
FRYE: And that’s probably where we’ll be for a bit with the current cadence of vaccine. (:05)
Frye says, each clinic has a different protocol for vaccine appointments.  So if you are looking to get vaccinated - reach out to your tribal clinic to find out how to do that.  

In other Covid-19 related news, the number of positive cases tested in IHS-tribal clinics has decreased over the past month. The spike in positive cases after Thanksgiving has fallen over December and January. IHS Bemidji Area director Daniel Frye says that’s at least partially due to closings ordered by the Walz administration. 
FRYE: I have to imagine some of the governors orders throughout the holidays had an affect on that with the closing of businesses with the restaurants. We’re just not seeing that community spread. (:10)
In the past week, roughly 6% of Covid tests are positive at IHS-tribal clinics.  
And finally...
We honor the life of Laura Waterman Wittstock, Seneca, who passed on January 16th. She was 83. Waterman Wittstock was an award winning journalist, an author and a Matriarch to the Native journalism community across the country.
She was a founder of Minneapolis based Migizi communications and long-time host of the First Person Radio program that ran until 2018 on Minneapolis based community radio station K-F-A-I. 
Minnesota Lieutenant Governor, Peggy Flanagan, White Earth Ojibwe, says Waterman Wittstock was a mentor to many. 
FLANAGAN: She spent so much time working with young women in particular to make sure they had a path to success and to reach their full potential.  When I was just a baby organizer coming up int eh community, she really saw me. She encouraged me to run and be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention when I was just 24 years old and she helped fund raise to get me there. I know that my story of being seen and heard and valued and encouraged is just one of hundreds or thousands of stories of Native women and men who she just pushed to take risks and reach out full potential. (:46)
Flanagan says she honors Laura Waterman Wittstock in her work as the first Native woman serving in state-wide office in Minnesota.
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