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.
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.