Elderly on deck for vaccination

Wyoming State Hospital employee Karla Toomer shares her reasons for choosing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. With nearly all local medical workers vaccinated, Public Health officials are preparing to move to phase 1B in the county’s plan, which is to vaccinate community members 70 and older. (COURTESY PHOTO)

With nearly all medical workers vaccinated, community members 70 and older slated to receive COVID vaccine

EVANSTON — Uinta County Public Health has announced it is preparing to move into the second phase of COVID-19 vaccinations. With vaccinations for those in the top tier of priority (phase 1A) nearly complete, plans are being made to begin vaccinating those in phase 1B, specifically those age 70 and older.

During a weekly COVID-19 update on Friday, Jan. 8, Uinta County Public Health Nurse Manager Kim Proffit said nearly 400 doses had been distributed of the 700 the county received in December, and the expectation is that the county will receive an additional 700 doses in January.

A press release from county public health said doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are very limited at this time and “there will likely not be enough to vaccinate everyone who would like one at the first clinic.” However, more vaccine will be available in the coming weeks and additional clinics will be scheduled as additional doses are received.

The first clinic in Evanston will be held on Monday, Jan. 18. In order to fairly distribute the vaccine, the decision has been made to utilize a random drawing to determine which individuals will receive their first dose during the Jan. 18 clinic. The county is utilizing the Moderna vaccine, which requires recipients to get two doses four weeks apart.

Those 70 years and older who are interested in receiving the vaccine should visit https://tinyurl.com/yysqgpr9 to complete the registration form or call Uinta County Public Health through Thursday, Jan. 14. Evanston residents can call 307-789-9203 and Bridger Valley residents can call 307-787-3800 to sign up.

Those who are selected will receive notification of the location, time and date they will receive the vaccine. The shots will not be available on a drop-in basis and, at this time, only those on the list and age 70 and older are eligible to receive the vaccinations.

Following vaccinations of those 70 and older, the next priority groups will be opened up, including school district staff and childcare service providers. Information on those vaccinations will be distributed through Code Red and other forms of media, and the public is encouraged to sign up for Code Red by visiting uintacounty.com and then clicking on the Code Red shield on the lower right of the page.

Other sub-groups in phase 1B include grocery store employees and US Postal Service and other mail delivery employees. Although not yet finalized by the Wyoming Department of Health, phase 1C looks likely to include people age 60 and over, other individuals with high-risk conditions and other essential workers not included in phase 1B.

During Friday’s update, Proffit said, “It’s exciting to be able to be actually giving vaccines, and it does feel hopeful. All of the measures we’ve continued to hit for the last 10 months or so — the education, mask-wearing, physical distancing, testing, etc. — are and were actual tools that continue to be important.

“The vaccine does feel different,” she continued. “[It] feels a little more like hands-on work and like a very important added tool that maybe can make the difference in getting to the end of this thing.”

The Moderna vaccine is an mRNA vaccine that does not contain actual coronavirus and, therefore, cannot infect anyone with COVID-19. Side effects can include pain and swelling at the injection site in the arm, as well as fever, chills, fatigue and headache. It can take one to two weeks after the second dose is received to develop protective immunity to the coronavirus. Additionally, it is unknown if vaccination also prevents individuals from spreading COVID-19, so it is still important to continue mask wearing and physical distancing, as well as staying home when sick, even after someone has been vaccinated, until such time that a substantial percentage of the public has received the vaccine, which will likely take several months.

While it has been reported that vaccine doses have been wasted in other areas of the country, Proffit and Evanston Regional Hospital Director of Business Development and Marketing Jessica Kendrick said that has not happened in Uinta County. The Moderna vaccine requires freezer storage until being thawed, at which point vials can be refrigerated for up to 30 days. However, once opened, the 10 doses in each vial must be given within six hours. Proffit said they are being very careful in scheduling and not opening vials until 10 individuals are ready and will be vaccinated.

Proffit added that most of the national news stories about doses being wasted involve the Pfizer vaccine, which is more challenging to utilize because it requires super-cold freezer storage and has different storage and usage instructions.

As the vaccinations have begun, confirmed cases in the county have climbed back up a bit since the holidays. Just prior to Christmas cases had come back down somewhat, with 86 new cases the week ending Dec. 18 and 78 cases the week following. There has been an average of 94 new cases each week since. The two-week rolling average percentage of all testing conducted that has resulted in positive results has gone down to 9.1%, said Proffit, who noted that it is “the first time in a long time we are below 10% (the red zone, according to the CDC).” However, on Monday, Jan. 4, the first day of drive-through curbside testing at Evanston Regional Hospital after the four-day holiday closure, the percent of tests that returned as positive was 38%.

For those individuals who tested at ERH and need confirmation of their positive or negative status, test results can now be obtained directly through Uinta County Public Health. To request an authorization form for record release, email [email protected] Although the deadline for utilizing CARES Act funding was originally Dec. 30, 2020, and the Family First Coronavirus Response Act has also expired, Congress has passed legislation extending certain provisions of support for those impacted by the pandemic. Although complete details are not yet available, the Department of Workforce Services recommends those who are out of work due to the pandemic still contact their office to apply for unemployment. Additionally, a new allotment of the Paycheck Protection Program is available and applications are being accepted by the Small Business Administration. Additional information on those loans and requirements can be found at sba.gov.

The eighth Uinta County fatality attributed to COVID-19 was confirmed by the Wyoming Department of Health on the afternoon of Thursday, Jan 7. The local fatality was one of 25 confirmed Thursday and was reportedly in an older man in an out-of-state healthcare facility. He did have health conditions recognized as putting him at higher risk of serious complications of COVID-19 illness.

The Wyoming Information Sharing Platform (WISP) reports 189 active cases in Uinta County as of Monday, Jan. 11, with 1,924 active cases statewide. There have been 1,744 total confirmed cases in Uinta County since the pandemic began.

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