The week of April 5 was National Public Health Week. I can think of no better time to acknowledge the St. Louis County Public Health team than now, on the back side of this COVID-19 pandemic.

In a normal year, our public health team members work across the continuum of life. They specialize along the spectrum, from helping expectant mothers plan and care for healthy newborns to assisting our seniors in living independently for as long as they safely can.

With the added crisis of the pandemic, our team has been working seven days a week over the past year providing services, including education on the risks of and protections against COVID-19; being a point of contact for our businesses and schools; ensuring that those infected by the coronavirus receive shelter, food, and medical care; providing continued access to testing; and vaccinating more than 29,000 citizens so far.

I could not be prouder of the way the county gave priority for mobile immunization clinics to areas with vulnerable populations experiencing homelessness and/or poor health due to health inequities. More than 75 mobile clinics, partnering with nonprofit organizations and health care systems, were set up, north and south throughout the county. This saved lives.

A few examples just in Duluth: At the Duluth Inn, which provides short-term housing for homeless citizens with significant medical conditions, 56% of individuals have been given at least one dose of vaccine; at the warming shelter in West Duluth, 91% of individuals have received at least one dose; and at CHUM, 83% of individuals have gotten at least one dose of vaccine.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

It is truly remarkable what the St. Louis County Public Health team has done and continues to do on a daily basis.

Looking back on this chapter of our history will always be bittersweet. We will remember lives lost and the financial and emotional hardships brought on by the pandemic. But we also will remember a community which joined together and fought through this.

As a country, we must prioritize funding for public health in federal, state, and local budgets for generations to come. Join me in thanking our local public health workers now more than ever.

Patrick Boyle of Duluth is the elected representative of District 2 on the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners.