In preparation for the state’s next phase in the COVID-19 vaccination program, two leaders in Highland County’s fight against the virus joined the board of commissioners via ZOOM Wednesday to elaborate on planning for Phase 1B.
Highland County Emergency Management Agency Director David Bushelman and Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner spoke virtually about what had been accomplished with ongoing vaccinations and expectations for the next phase.
Bushelman said that both departments have been in close partnership in the county’s vaccination process and had trained for years for such an event.
“Our goals for Phase 1B vaccinations are to save lives of the most vulnerable citizens and to get kids back in school,” he said.
He added that prior experience with vaccinating for the seasonal flu and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, as well as ongoing training, had prepared both agencies for the work ahead.
Warner echoed the teamwork of both departments, and while expressing that he wasn’t always happy with how programs are sometimes rolled out, he encouraged everyone to have reasonable expectations as the vaccination program moves into its next phase.
“We’re going to be trying to get vaccines out to our older county residents, and next week we’ll be starting with the 80 and older group,” Warner said. “In this group there’s about 420,000 people statewide, and throughout Ohio next week we’re going to be receiving about 100,00 vaccines, so we’re not going to have enough to vaccinate all of the 80-year-olds that are interested.”
He said that in the current Phase 1A program, 670 people in Highland County had received the first of the twin-injection Moderna vaccine, and that of the initial 300 doses his office received, all had either been administered or were scheduled to be by the end of Wednesday.
“Another 100 doses were received this past Monday, and we’ll be administering that through the end of this week and into next for our Phase 1A groups,” he said.
Warner said the health department will be working in parallel with the Ohio Department of Health’s schedule for Phase 1B, saying those 80 and older would be next in line for inoculation starting Tuesday, Jan. 19.
“The week after that, Jan. 25, will be for those 75 and older and those with severe congenital and development disorders,” he said. “We’ll be partnering with our local department of DD since they work with those clients very closely.”
The week of Feb. 1 will be for those 70 and older and those that work in K-12 schools, with the week of Feb. 8 set aside for vaccinating those 65 and older. Warner cautioned that during that timeline preceding age groups would be in the vaccination pipeline, and that combined with the lack of available vaccine, it would take weeks if not months to complete.
But he had good news to report, learning Tuesday night that the county will receive 300 doses of Moderna vaccine for Phase 1B populations next week, which he said was a higher quantity than he was expecting. But again, he gave a note of caution on expectations.
“That is some good news, but it’s still not going to be enough to cover everyone who is 80 years old in the county, but it is much better than I was anticipating,” Warner said.
He said that later in the week the health department will release specific information concerning COVID-19 vaccine registrations on both social and local news media, emphasizing that his office is partnering with other health departments across Ohio in a regional scheduling system with a toll-free number that people will use to secure appointments for vaccination in Highland County.
“There is no need to call the health department right now,” Warner said. “As we move through the vaccination process, we’re still doing our contract tracing and all the other duties at the health department, so you can see it doesn’t take very long for our phone system to get overloaded.”
On Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) received information from the federal government concerning the state’s vaccine allotment for the upcoming week.
In an ODH news release, the agency said that the information will detail which providers will receive vaccines and in what quantity, and that will be communicated to local health departments Wednesday evening.
Each county health department, in partnership with their local emergency management agency and vaccine providers, will then communicate vaccine distribution plans with the media and the public on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The process to vaccinate those in each county will vary depending on the provider, the agency said, with some expected to hold walk-up clinics while others may take appointments.
On Thursday, the ODH plans to launch a tool on its website, coronavirus.ohio.gov, to assist citizens looking for a provider that has been allotted vaccines.
The tool will be searchable by zip code or county, but it will not be updated in real-time. The ODH advised those eligible to receive a vaccine to consult local sources to determine up-to-date availability.
The ODH also advised hospitals that are vaccinating their frontline health care workers as part of Phase 1A that they must complete those inoculations by Sunday, Jan. 17.
In other business Wednesday, 22 resolutions and two contracts received the commissioners’ approval.
Several of the resolutions dealt with budget modifications and line item budget transfers, while two concerned travel expenses of county recorder Chad McConnaughey and engineer Chris Fauber.
Three resolutions directed the county engineers office to establish an alternative schedule of vacation leave and holidays for employees of the appointing authority, to use existing manpower in “force account” concerning construction and improvement efforts on county roadways in 2021, and to lease purchase two 2021 Western Star 7600 SB Tandem trucks from Fyda Frightliner at a cost not to exceed $450,000, with financing through Merchants National Bank.
Board chairman Jeff Duncan was given authorization to sign off on the Rolling Acres waste water treatment plant repair/replacement planning application documents through the Ohio EPA, and for an agreement with Clemons, Nelson & Associates, Inc. for legal representation at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Also Wednesday, a letter of support was approved for Adena Greenfield Medical Center for an expansion project, the transfer of the liquor license for Beechwood Carry Out was approved, and approval was given for construction of a new deck at the dog pound, for roof repair at the Rocky Fork Lake sewer plant, and for installation of electric service at a new pole building there as well.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.