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Public Health seeks assistance in COVID-19 fight

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At the Mitchell County Board of Supervisors meeting on Sept. 12, Mitchell County Public Health Administrator Laura Huisman indicated she had turned in several applications for various needs created by 20 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laura Huisman and Olivia Huisman

Laura Huisman of Mitchell County Public Health and volunteer Olivia Huisman at a February mass vaccination.

Huisman requested Cool Cubes, which are coolers Public Health uses to transport vaccines. The current coolers are 15 to 20 years old and extremely heavy. She also requested shelving and storage totes for PPEs and other supplies, which would go in the new maintenance shed in Osage.

“If our coolers are that old, it’s a need they be replaced,” supervisor Mike Mayer said.

Also requested were wipeable lobby chairs to replace the current cloth versions, as well as 15 iPads for nurses and aides, which will be compatible with new software. Public Health needs this in the next few months to begin training, Huisman said.

There is also a new generator requested for the Public Health building, which has already been ordered. Currently, the building does not have a backup generator. A loss of power could ruin the stored vaccine supply, worth over $40,000. Another request was a portable generator for community clinics that need electricity.

Mayer and supervisor Todd Frein recommended Honda brand generators.

Public Health is also requesting new desks for several nurses, who share an office.

“We didn’t have the option of not coming into work this last 20 months,” Huisman said of the workload on Public Health employees.

Supervisor Jim Wherry and Mayer did not feel that desks fell under the same category as the other requests. Huisman said if they did not, she would then pay for them out of the health improvement fund.

Public Health also requested two tents, which were used often for testing and vaccination clinics since the pandemic began, according to Huisman.

The last request was a truck and trailer to drive to community public health clinics.

“Drive-through clinics have become something people want to start seeing again,” Huisman said of this method of providing vaccinations throughout the county.

She said this makes access to vaccines easier, and makes the public more likely to take advantage of such services during the pandemic, as COVID-19 continues to be fought with inoculations. Another goal of Public Health’s outreach is education.

“Currently, we use the county EMA’s truck and trailer,” Huisman said. “Drive-throughs are more convenient for the community, for us coming out, instead of them having to come into the businesses and them coming into our building.”

Wherry questioned the need for the truck and trailer, at least for the present. He wanted to see how many vaccinations Public Health provides over the next year, in order to gauge demand. He added there were two trailers Public Health could use throughout the coming year.

“Personally, I’m not prepared to go down to the car lot and purchase you guys a vehicle,” Wherry said. “We have things that cycle down from the sheriff’s office.”

Wherry asked whether there was a measure of responsibility for the public to reach out to Public Health and travel to its office in Osage. He added that the federal government might change the perimeters of a given program, keeping the dollar amount in question.

“They might be reneged, would be the better words,” said supervisor Mark Hendrickson of the allocation of government funds.

Frein said that if some of the Public Health requests do not pass, they can still be addressed down the road.

The supervisors approved the cool cubes, the storage totes, the wipeable chairs, the iPads and training, the generator, the portable generator up to $2,499, and the tents. Public Health withdrew the desk request.

The supervisors tabled the request for the truck and trailer until further discussion.

“We’ll work with you, and I think things will work out,” Frein said.

Public Health cooler for vaccines

An old Mitchell County Public Health cooler used to store vaccines. The Board of Supervisors approved purchase of new coolers, one of several steps taken to help Public Health fight COVID-19.

Jason W. Selby is the community editor for the Mitchell Country Press News. He can be reached at 515-971-6217, or by email at


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