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By Dan Reed 

Mass vaccinations are rolling in Barnum


March 12, 2021

It has been a whole year since this plague of Covid-19 first crept into the Northland, and the days of mass vaccination have finally arrived.

It is new, and yet not so new to me. I was a product of a Minnesota education that celebrated the wonders and power of science and trusted our doctors and scientists when they said we should do something. I was in an elementary Kalevala school line that first got polio shots and other immunizations that surely protected us so we could lead productive lives.

The Old Ones told of death from smallpox, cholera, tetanus, tuberculosis and scarlet fever. Brothers, sisters, parents, and neighbors were lost to those diseases, and the loss still pained the survivors of that period.

I was surprised when a Covid vaccine was available so soon, even on an emergency basis. Again, science had succeeded in crafting vaccines from extensive research that had been done on human cells, specifically human RNA. A major discussion on how that was done is way beyond my pay grade. Yet, as I was taught as a child to trust science and doctors, I knew I would get vaccinated as soon as I could, to protect from the biggest scourge here since the 1918 flu pandemic.

Those of us on Reed Lane in Automba above the age of 65 had been signed up for shots for some time. I was glad my 87-year-old aunt got her vaccinations early in the cycle. Until recently, vaccines had been in short supply. The secret, some said, was to wait online and pounce the moment there was an opening, regardless of where. I heard of people coming from Rochester, Mounds View, Forest Lake, Hinckley, and Meadowlands to get vaccinated in Moose Lake.

Finally, my sister and I got on a list through Carlton County Public Health, and last Thursday we went to the new Carlton County Transportation Building in Barnum for our first dose of the Moderna vaccine. It was an amazing process. In less than four hours, 300 people - sitting in their cars - went through the protocol start-to-finish in about 25 minutes per car. The longest we had to wait was 15 minutes, to see if we would have a reaction to the immunization.

Transportation staff guided us through a route outside lined with reflective cones, like a version of the yellow brick road. Just before our car moved inside the building, I got a personal greeting from county foreman Rick Norgaard, which was fun. Our cars moved down two lines in short convoys with lots of staff to guide us. We were checked and rechecked as you would be in any medical setting.

We never left our car. We rested our arms on cushions perched on rolled-down window openings, and got our shots. Mine was painless. Each person got an immunization card with our next appointment date. The car moved up to another place to wait 15 minutes for any reaction. We had none. Over the next two days we both experienced a little soreness around the injection site, but I thought it was nothing like those tetanus shots I have taken periodically over the years.

I did have a change of attitude. Somehow, although we need to get one more injection on March 31 at the same site, I feel more peaceful. It is comforting to have these shots and not struggle with fear of infection evolving into intensive care units and death. Even though we must still wear masks and do social distancing, a sense of hope came to me strong and clear.

Besides being glad to get a vaccination in the Barnum garage, I was happy for the county workers who can work daily in that facility and work for us more safely.

I come from a background of trucking and large woods harvesting equipment, so it was nice to get a look inside the newest county building. I have seen the county equipment grow larger and larger. The days of the Oshkosh plowing out our country roads is long past.

The large bays for the trucks and equipment are needed for repair and changing attachments during the year. In the old building, the snow plows were put on outside, regardless of weather conditions. Now equipment will be cleaned periodically inside the heated building. Regular cleaning will prevent extra maintenance costs for rust and corrosion.

In my lifetime, county garages have gone from frame structures spread throughout the county to more centralized locations in the 1970s. Now there's just the Transportation Building at the Carlton Junction, the Barnum facility, and two outpost garages in Kettle River and Cromwell.

And they make fine mobile vaccination sites as well. Who would have predicted that back when the county board was debating the virtues of a new garage?

Dan Reed is a freelance writer who covers the Carlton County Board and a local historian who lives in Automba Township, where both sides of his family settled 130 years ago.


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