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First 250 COVID-19 vaccinations given in Clark County

First 250 COVID-19 vaccinations given in Clark County First 250 COVID-19 vaccinations given in Clark County

Clark County has administered its first 250 COVID-19 vaccinations to frontline healthcare workers, but how soon it gets around to having shots available for the general population is still an unanswered question.

Clark County Health Officer Brittany Mews said this week the county continues to receive relatively small numbers of Moderna vaccine doses, and is ready this week to expand availability to emergency workers such as EMTs, firefighters and police. The county did not use all of its first two allocations, but cannot plan very far ahead to expand availability because it does not know how much it will get through the state’s allocation program.

Mews said Clark County received 300 Moderna vaccine doses in the first few weeks of distribution, and administered 120 doses at a Jan. 7 drive-thru-clinic in Curtiss and 130 more on a Jan. 14 clinic in Greenwood. The remaining 50 doses are properly cooled and stored and will be used at the next clinic in Curtiss this week, and emergency workers will be able to access them along with healthcare workers.

“We had 50 doses left that we will reallocate for the next clinic,” Mews said.

Getting more vaccines to distribute to those who are identified as most in need is a weekly matter, Mews said. The county makes an estimate of how many it expects it will need for the coming week, then submits a request to the state. A few days later, it gets word on just how many it will receive. With that process in place, Mews said it is difficult for the county to know ahead of time how many more people it can vaccinate.

“We literally can’t plan ahead until Friday for the next week,” she said.

The county is following a schedule of who is eligible for the first vaccines. Until this week, it was only healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents. Mews said the county may not have used its allocation of 300 doses for that population since most healthcare providers — such as the Marshfield Medical Center system — are vaccinating their own employees. Beginning with the clinic scheduled for Jan. 21 from 2-6 p.m., at the Owen-Withee-Curtiss Fire Station in Curtiss, firefighters and police will also be able to get their shots.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has set the protocols for who can receive early vaccines. Phase 1A included healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. The first persons eligible under Phase 1B are the firemen and police.

Mews said her department has been overwhelmed with calls from the public asking when shots will be available for the public. With the vaccine roll-out beginning slowly and the supply schedule almost a complete unknown at this time, she said she cannot give an estimate of when that might occur.

A note on the county’s COVID-19 website page states, “It is expected that vaccines will not become widely available to community members until later in 2021.”

“It’s not available to the general public at this time,” Mews said. “Please check our website and Facebook page.”

While immunizations remain unavailable yet to most of the county’s 32,000-plus residents, there is some good news on the COVID-19 front. Mews said the county has gotten through an autumn case surge that saw positive case numbers spike. At the peak of the surge in mid-November, there were 548 active cases in the county at one time. The active caseload was 87 as of Tuesday and has numbered less than 200 every day since Dec. 6.

As of Tuesday, the city of Neillsville (with seven cases) was the only municipality in the county reporting more than five active cases. Fourteen of the county’s 34 townships are reporting no active cases.

The county did surpass the 3,000 total positive case mark on Monday. Of the 3,001 known positives since the outbreak began in March, 2,860 of them are considered recovered and 219 of them required hospitalizations at some point. The county has recorded 54 COVID-19 deaths, a figure that ranks seventh among the state’s 72 counties in terms of per capita deaths.

“It has been going in the right trajectory,” Mews said of the total case numbers. “We have seen less testing, as well.”

Mews encourages citizens to not grow complacent even though positive case numbers are dropping and the vaccine is near. Protocols for dealing with positive cases will not be changing anytime soon.

“Even after vaccination, we still are insisting people must quarantine,” Mews said.

Masks should also continue to be worn, and large gatherings are still discouraged.

“It (the vaccine) is one piece in the equation of the whole solution,” Mews said.

Local health officials uncertain when public will have chance