Bois Forte, Fortune Bay Resort Casino employees required to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Employees have until Monday, Oct. 18 to submit letters of resignation if they do not want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. After that, employees who do not follow the new company policy will have their employment terminated on grounds of misconduct.

FILE: Fortune Bay Resort Casino
Fortune Bay Resort Casino in Tower is operated by the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. Amanda Odeski / 2006 file / News Tribune
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Fortune Bay Resort Casino, Bois Forte tribal government and Bois Forte business development employees will be required to receive a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 1. The tribal council approved the mandate at the end of September in response to concerns about rising cases of the delta variant.

A Wednesday news release from Fortune Bay Resort Casino in Tower said 25 to 30 employees have told their managers or directors that they will not be getting the vaccine. Requests for medical and religious exemptions will be considered, and six exemption requests have been filed as of Wednesday.

Elizabeth Deegan, Fortune Bay interim general manager, said the casino has already been struggling with staff shortages, and will assess staff numbers next week to see if hours will need to be changed. Director of Human Resources Beth Adams said employees will have until Monday, Oct. 18 to submit letters of resignation.

“The numbers of those who said they will not get vaccinated have dropped, but any loss of staff will be tough to deal with,” Deegan said in the release.

SEE ALSO: Northern Minnesota among nation's hot spots for new COVID-19 cases


Bois Forte Tribal chair Cathy Chavers said at the council meeting that Native Americans face a higher risk of hospitalization and/or death as a result of COVID-19 infection compared to non-Natives, and the mandate is an attempt to protect the communities of Nett Lake and Lake Vermilion.

“We know that there are employees out there that will not vaccinate and that is their choice as an individual,” Chavers said. “But we’re doing this to help keep our community safe.”

The Bois Forte Mobile Vaccine Unit will be on-site at Fortune Bay for employees to get vaccinated on Oct. 21 and 27. Casino, tribal government and business development employees who refuse a vaccine and are not approved for an exemption can either resign or their employment will be terminated on grounds of misconduct for failing to follow company policy. Adams said a resignation is preferred.

“Vaccine mandates have been imposed at several larger companies and as one of the largest employees on the Iron Range, we are not excluded from having to make hard decisions like this,” Adams said.

Laura Butterbrodt covers health for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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