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Clinic CEO shares update as COVID-19 case count climbs

The Biden’s administration’s mandate that employers with 100 or more employees require coronavirus vaccinations or institute weekly virus testing moved one step closer to enforcement this week.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration finalized the initial draft of the emergency order on Oct. 12 and sent it to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review, the Associated Press reports.

The expansive rules mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.

Local healthcare officials, including those at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic (SMC) in Grand Marais, continue to prepare for implementation of the federal mandate. Clinic CEO Kate Surbaugh spoke with WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs Oct. 13 about the latest in local healthcare and pandemic-related news (audio below).

Surbaugh said an estimated 95 percent of SMC staff are vaccinated at this time and the number continues to climb in recent months. The federal mandate could be in place before the end of the year, meaning it could impact the remaining healthcare workers in Cook County who remain unvaccinated at that time.

Meanwhile, the case count for COVID-19 continues to climb in Cook County. As of Oct. 14, there were at least 247 total cases reported throughout the pandemic, with at least 13 active cases at this time.

There are still no deaths among Cook County residents due to COVID-19, the only county in the state without a single death from the coronavirus during the ongoing pandemic.