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Vaccine for youngest is a game-changer

Cloquet schools superintendent Michael Cary cracked open the door to a change in the district's mask mandate Monday, now that elementary school students - ages 5 and older - can be vaccinated for Covid-19.

Cary broached the subject with Cloquet school board members to see if they would consider a future date, perhaps the start of the second semester, when Cloquet schools would remove its universal masking mandate because all students and staff would have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. As of last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11.

To arrive at a date sometime in January, Cary calculated the number of weeks it takes a person to get to full immunity - five weeks from the first of a two-dose vaccination - plus giving parents time to arrange for vaccinations. The vaccine has been proven safe and effective for children. It is a lower dose (10 micrograms) than that used for individuals ages 12 and older (30 micrograms).

Children in that age group have already started getting their vaccinations here, through their doctor, pharmacy or clinic. Carlton County Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) partnered with the Fond du Lac Reservation to hold the first vaccination clinic specifically for children ages 5-11 on Wednesday - with 300 vaccines to give out, it was full by Tuesday.

Community Memorial Hospital will be giving Covid-19 vaccines for kids ages 5-11 from 4:15 to 6:15 p.m. Nov. 22 by appointment only. (To schedule, call 218-879-1271.)

PHHS director Dave Lee calculated there are 3,000 children in that age group in the county now eligible to be vaccinated.

"Probably 1,000 will get their shots right away," Lee told the Pine Knot Monday, pointing toward trends in the rest of the population. "I expect another 1,000 over the next few months. And probably about a quarter of parents won't allow their children to be vaccinated."

With Covid transmission rates across the state still high, Lee said people should continue to be cautious and wear masks inside public spaces, even if they're vaccinated.

Cloquet school board members agreed to begin discussing the mask mandate at their next meeting on Nov. 22.

In other Covid-related matters, Cary informed the board that the vaccine mandate requiring all employers of 100 or more employees to require vaccinations or weekly testing would apply to the school district.

That rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been temporarily suspended, however, because of legal challenges. Cary said the district is working on a policy that would reflect the OSHA requirements. If the policy is implemented, Cary said the district would have to gather ongoing information on which employees are vaccinated and test results.

The Cloquet and Carlton committees are scheduled to meet at Cloquet High School Tuesday, Nov. 16 for a tour and to talk more about a tuition agreement.