Public health officials prepping for COVID vaccine

Board of Supervisors
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Last week, Jones County Public Health Coordinator Jenna Lovaas noted the fact that the State of Iowa was not reporting COVID-19-related deaths from long-term care facilities with the total deaths from each county. The next day, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a change in how the state would be reporting such deaths.

     In a press release, it was stated that the Iowa Department of Public Health would “modify for counting and reporting deaths due to COVID-19.

     “With the large increase in antigen testing, specifically in long-term care, and through conversations with counties and local public health, we’ve recognized a need to adjust our approach on death reporting.”

     This new method of reporting COVID-19 deaths will be applied retroactively to deaths reported in Iowa since March, and resulted in an increase in the number of Iowans whose deaths are attributed to the virus.

     To date, Jones County has seen a total of 44 deaths related to COVID-19. Six are from the Anamosa State Penitentiary, 27 from long-term care facilities in the county, and 11 from the general population.

     As of Friday, Dec. 11, there were 13 residents hospitalized due to the virus, with a 14-day positivity rate of 19.1 percent. (The State of Iowa’s positivity rate is 15.7 percent.)

     During the Dec. 8 Jones County Supervisor meeting, Lovaas had some optimistic words: “It’s gone down nicely,” she said, referring to the number of positive cases in the county.

     On Dec. 7, JCPH was notified that the IDPH had allocated a certain number of vaccines for Jones County. Lovaas said JCPH planned to meet with local healthcare providers following the board of supervisor meeting to discuss distribution.

     Phase 1A of distributing the vaccine includes healthcare providers and those with direct COVID-19 patient contact. Long-term care residents and staff would receive the vaccine through the state’s partnership with pharmaceutical companies.

     Supervisor Joe Oswald inquired about EMS services getting the vaccine, those responding to COVID emergencies and transporting patients.

     “We have enough doses to cover EMS,” said Lovaas.

     Emergency Management Coordinator Brenda Leonard commented that Jones County has roughly 140 EMS personnel.

     Following Phase 1A, Lovaas said “another priority population” would receive the vaccine, not the general population.

     “Inmates may be included and other congregate living populations,” she offered. “But I’m not sure who’s in the next group.”

     Supervisor Ned Rohwedder asked about the timeframe between the two vaccine doses. JCPH Preparedness Specialist Kaci Ginn said it’s 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for the Moderna vaccine.

     In continuing to secure PPE, Leonard said the cost is finally coming down on some supplies/

     “Shipping is where they’re really getting you because of Christmas right now,” she said of delays and increased shipping costs.

     However, the demand of PPE locally has gone down.

     The issue, now, is a shortage of healthcare workers. Leonard said the state is working on contracting with retired healthcare workers to bring more help into the hospitals and care facilities.

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