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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Covid-19 Vaccine May Be Offered By Marinette County Next Week

Issue Date: January 27, 2021

At its monthly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 26 Marinette County Board officially endorsed County Administrator John LeFebvre's appointment of Tim Oestreich to head the Land Information Department. Oestreich, who began working for the county as GIS Director, had been serving as assistant Land Information Department Director. He replaced Greg Cleereman, who has retired, effective Monday, Jan. 25.

The meeting also included the Health and Human Services Department's COVID report, given by County Public Health Officer Mollie Bonjean, the annual Sheriffs Department report given by Sheriff Jerry Sauve, and a report by LeFebvre on various county activities, including courthouse remodeling being carried out in connection with the move of many county departments to the newly renovated County Resource Center on Ella Court Street, which is the long-vacant former Law Enforcement Building.

The meeting was again held in the Herbert R. Williams Theater on the UW-Green Bay's Marinette Campus due to provisions for social distancing in the covid pandemic. The University will also host County Board for its February meeting, but LeFebvre hopes by March remodeling of former Land Information offices on the first floor of the original Courthouse into a multiple purpose meeting room will be completed enough for County Board to meet there.

LeFebvre thanked the University for providing meeting space, and asked supervisors to look around for improvements the theater and the building that holds it might need, because the University is looking at things like new carpeting, seats, etc. for that facility.

LeFebvre said among other projects, the county is working on improvements to Dave's Falls parking lot, and working to establish a mountain bike trail system near Goodman and McClintock parks. He and the mountain bike group are working with a consultant, and he will be at the next Infrastructure Committee meeting to explain the project.

LeFebvre also reported the county had received $854,667.30 in Routes to Recovery funding for spending aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19. Of this, $673,078 had come directly to Marinette County and $175,754.90 had come from municipalities that donated their unused Routes for Recovery Funds. A share of this money had gone to purchase the new Dominion voting machines approved by County Board last month. One machine is to go to each voting place in the county, and to help make that happen, municipalities from all around the county had contributed their unused Routes for Recovery funds.

LeFebvre said the county had deliberately over-spent its "Routes" money by $10,000, but it turned out they had gotten an additional $5,800 to help offset this from a surplus in the Routes program.

Also the county audit being done by Kerber Rose is starting. LeFebvre distributed questionnaires to each supervisor. The confidential responses are to be filled out and mailed back to the audit firm without going through county hands.

"To say this last year has been challenging is an understatement for all of us," Bonjean declared at the start of her report. She quoted a few Covid statistics, and said more can be found on the Wisconsin Department of Health website.

She said the rate of positive Covid tests dropped slightly here in the past two weeks, from a ř," which is the highest level, to a Ř". Rate of hospitalization in northeast Wisconsin is also shrinking. She said the overall area has 78 percent of hospital beds in use for all reasons, and 71 percent of intensive care beds.

She asked everyone who has had a positive Covid test to call their associates in an effort to improve contact tracing, which is what she and her staff have been focusing on.

She said planning for mass vaccinations began before the Covid-19 vaccine was developed, and now her department has requested a small number of doses to be distributed, possibly next week.

Marinette County is working with a large clinic on the vaccinating program, Bonjean said, adding she will not be allowed to name that clinic until next week. She expects vaccinating to begin in early to mid-February, and they should be able to vaccinate 24,000 people in 20 weeks. Private clinics and pharmacies in Marinette and possibly elsewhere in the county are also offering vaccinations through separate programs of their own, but Bonjean is not keeping tally on them. "We are just trying to focus on what we can control," she said.

Once the vaccinating gets started shots will be administered by appointment only to avoid long lines and long wait times.

Questions from several supervisors indicated reservations about what appears to be a plan to have all, or at least most, of the vaccinating done in the City of Marinette, where the large clinic she had referred to is located.

Supervisor Roger Allen, who represents portions of the City of Niagara, asked what is being done for the residents of the county's most northern city. It takes about an hour and a quarter to drive the approximately 64 miles between Niagara and Marinette.

Bonjean said she had reached out to Florence County, but without results so far. She is looking at bussing people, "but that has other complications."

To a suggestion that they take the vaccination program to schools throughout the county, Bonjean said with all the issues related Covid and the Covid vaccine, "it is much more efficient to have everyone come to a large central clinic." The vaccine must be kept cold, and she is allowed to order only as many doses as they will be able to deliver within a specific time frame.

Bonjean said she has been working with pharmacies to provide vaccines to teachers in outlying schools.

"If I was 75 and lived in Florence County I would have had my shot already," declared Supervisor Al Sauld, who represents portions of the rural Niagara area. He said friends in Oconto County will be getting their shots on Wednesday, Feb. 3, and asked why Marinette County is so far behind. He also noted getting information out via computers often doesn't work well for older people, and they shouldn't have to spend two hours on the phone to make an appointment. Also many of them do not like to drive, especially as far as Marinette, and they also don't want to spend the nearly three hours on a bus that it would take them to get to Marinette and back. He suggested Bonjean should get a vaccination site set up by working with Elderly Services to help people in the northern part of the county. "If I lived 80 yards farther north I'd have had my vaccine two weeks ago!" Sauld concluded.

"It is disheartening for me to say we don't have a solid plan for Niagara," Bonjean agreed, but added, "Our number one concern has been safety. We need to be sure when we are ready to go that everything runs smoothly. We want to be sure we're near a health care facility. She said Niagara has the hospital in Iron Mountain nearby, but there is nothing in the central part of the county.

People in Goodman have even more difficulty. The drive is about 70 miles and takes very nearly two hours one way, and there is no hospital within easy driving distance.

She has gone to Elderly Services regarding busses.

Sauld asked if she has gotten any vaccine yet, and Bonjean said she placed her first order last week and it will go to first responders and health care workers.

Asked about priority for teachers so youngsters can keep attending in-person classes, Bonjean said everyone is working to get educators protected so our kiddos can keep going to school.

Supervisor Don Pazynski asked if she has looked into working with other pharmacies, and Bonjean said she has a list of approved vaccinators, and several nursing homes have contracted with CVS and other pharmacies. "Like us, they're doing it with safety and efficiency in mind," Bonjean added.

Supervisor Connie Seefeldt asked if people who have had Covid should get vaccinated, and Bonjean said they should, but people with specific symptoms should't. Allergies should be considered.

Asked if she has ordered the embryo-based vaccine, and what the side effects are, Bonjean said she has ordered the MRNA vaccine, which does not change your DNA. Reports are that some of the developers used embryos for testing, but the vaccines are not made from them.

Supervisor Stan Gruszynski returned to the issue of transportation for elderly people to vaccination sites, and Bonjean agreed they need to look farther into that. She agreed they may need additional resources.

"I would encourage you to keep in contact with us," Gruszynski told her. "It is our responsibility to make sure everyone who needs the vaccine can get it."

LeFebvre said he is making help available as needed.

Pazynski asked her to elaborate on need for appointments, and Bonjean said she does not want to run out and does not want long wait lines, and added they are able to order only as much vaccine as they can deliver.

Supervisor Robert Holley said he and his wife had been vaccinated the previous week at Bellin in Oconto, and it didn't make sense to him to have the Marinette County program take so long.

Bonjean said Public Health, Emergency Management, Bellin, Prevea and Aurora have meetings every week on Covid-19 issues. Bellin had called her on Monday to say they do have vaccination openings coming up in Marinette this week, Bonjean said, and added if she is aware of something like this, she will make it known.

She works with four other public health nurses and they do have other health care challenges to deal with, Bonjean noted.

Supervisor Chris Gromala said Aurora had rolled out a plan the previous day for people over age 65 to get vaccination information by electronic means.

To further questions about immunity, Bonjean said people have immunity for 90 days after the start of a bout of Covid, but you do not need to wait that long to get the vaccine. She said even people who have been vaccinated or within the 90-day immune period should continue to wear masks, social distance and quarantine for 14 days after exposure to avoid spreading the virus.

Guarisco noted two of the three major clinics have outlying clinics and asked if they plan to do vaccinations at them. Bonjean said she is not sure.

Gruszynski questioned Bonjean on her mention of a difficulty in doing vaccinations at outlying sites because they do record keeping with pencil and paper, and they would need a robust scheduling system, "which we do not have." She said state is coming up with help for them on that issue.

Bonjean concluded her question and answer session with thanks to LeFebvre, Mattison and Emergency Management Director Eric Burmeister, Emergency Management Coordinator Kathy Frank and the Health and Human Services staff for all their help and support, and repeated, "I'm sure John LeFebvre will help us get what we need."

Next to speak was Sheriff Sauve, who assured Bonjean, "Anything we can do for you, you can count on us."

He had a prepared annual report, and thanked Lindsay Lesperance and the staff for getting all the information together.

He noted the Bear Cat off-road armored vehicle County Board authorized last year has been deployed three times already, and ironically, one of those times was to a call to a Town of Peshtigo for an armed robbery report that proved to be false, followed by a 911 call from the same individual asking for emergency medical assistance at his home, also in the Town of Peshtigo. Being cautious about reasons for the calls, the Bear Cat team was dispatched again. "We made a really safe response and the EMS people were glad we did," Sauve declared.

Sauve said he and all his staff have now been vaccinated for Covid.

Highlights of his report were solving two long-term missing persons cases. The search that located the remains of Janet Fullerton involved 11 groups spread out in the area she was last heard from, and the search team farthest out found the remains. That group included Deputy Brad Wyss and his wife, both serving as volunteers.

On a happy note, Sheriff Sauve announced Deputy Spencer Elias is recovering nicely and will soon be returning to work. In October, Deputy Elias and three others were very seriously injured when an elk struck the vehicle in which they traveling on a hunting trip to Idaho. The accident happened in Montana. hunting trip traffic accident in Montana.

During question and answer time, Supervisor Pazynski asked if people can still drop off medications in the lobby of the Law Enforcement Center, and Sauve said they can.

The board approved a DNR list of Emergency Fire Wardens for 2021, and Guarisco said he had asked why there are none in the northern part of the county. The farthest north is in Amberg. He was told by the DNR that they are encouraging on-line burning permit applications, and also that they had contacted numerous businesses in the north and no one was interested in issuing the permits. He suggested people concerned with that decision should contact the DNR.

In other business, the board approved selling a 6.34-acre parcel between Marsh Lane and Hwy. 141 to the Town of Pembine to be used as a possible site for a new town hall and town garage. Purchase price is $800, which includes payment of all taxes due and transfer costs. The property is to revert back to Marinette County if not developed within 10 years.

Near the start of the meeting, 1st Lieutenant Kyle Myszka, who is a Marinette resident and a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Reserves, presented County Board with an American flag that was flown in honor of Marinette County at Camp Moreell, Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, during Operation Freedom's Sentinel.

Myszka served in the U.S. Army since 2016 and recently returned from an 11 month deployment in support of United States Special Operations Combat Missions in the U.S. CENCOM's Area of Operation in the Middle East where he served as Detachment Commander for the 687th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, Headquarters and Headquarters Company out of Wausau, Wisconsin.

A plaque accompanying the flag states: "This flag was flown while in the face of the enemy, illuminated in dark by the fight for justice, and bears witness to the removal of terrorist forces threatening the freedom of the United States of America. It was flown on Camp Morrel by America's Leading Task Force with honor and pride for Special Operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism." It further stares the flag was flown on Nov. 30, 2020 in honor of Marinette County, and "...serves as a symbol of the sovereign power of the United States of America and the unshakable resolve to keep our country safe."

Myszka told County Board he is thankful to be back home in Marinette, where his family has lived for four or five generations. He asked County Board to remember the sacrifices made by members of the American armed forces, and said he was donating the flag to show his appreciation for the work County Board members and other county officials do "to make sure this is a place where you can plant a family and have it thrive."


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