As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Franklin County, vaccines were the main topic at Monday’s weekly update by city and county officials.
“We are excited to be able to be working under that Tier 1A area right now,” said Debbie Bell, the health education coordinator with the Franklin County Health Department. “We are actively working to vaccinate health care workers and 1B first responders. They’re often the first ones on the scene to help take care of our community if they need additional care because of COVID.
“We’re working with assisted living facilities trying to make sure those residents are also covered with this vaccine.”
Bell, filling in at Monday's briefing for FCHD Director Judy Mattingly, said the health department vaccinated approximately 890 people last week and expects to vaccinate an additional 610 people this week. Mattingly didn’t attend the update because she was helping the FCHD team vaccinate supported community living facilities.
Supported community living facilities are facilities and actually residences in the community for intellectually challenged persons.
Bell said FCHD employees are frequently asked when the vaccine will be available to different groups in the community.
“I can definitely tell you that’s a great question, and it’s an important question,” she said. “We want to make sure we are sharing the information we have available at the time.”
The department’s website, fchd.org, has a link that is devoted solely to COVID information, including the tier system for vaccinations.
Tier 1A is for health care personnel, long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities.
Tier 1B will be for those 70 and older, K-12 personnel and first responders.
A link at fchd.org is available for people 70 and older to submit information that creates a contact list for the health department when it is ready to advance to Tier 1B.
“It is not an appointment, it is not registration, but it is important to us to identify those individuals,” Bell said. "Unfortunately, we don’t have exact dates on when we’re going to be able to advance. We’re tying to be very specific and thorough when we go through these different tiers and adhere to what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department for Public Health put out so that we can make sure we’re vaccinating upon that recommendation.”
Bell said the majority of vaccinations administered by the health department have been the Moderna vaccine, which requires a second shot 28 days after the first. She added that the second vaccination doesn’t have to be taken exactly 28 days after the first, but it cannot be taken before 28 days have passed.
Bell said FCHD is prepared to administer the second vaccines while also vaccinating people for the first time.
“We kind of plan for that from week to week,” she said. “We try to plan those vaccinations out. We don’t have a definite (date), but we are hoping ... by the beginning of February we might be looking at that K-12 personnel group, and then possibly the beginning of March start looking at that 70-plus population for that 1B category.
“Our hope and our prayer is that we’ll be able to move faster, but that’s kind of our projection right now.”
Mayor Layne Wilkerson reminded small-business owners of additional funds being made available through the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Act expansion signed at the end of December.
“We want to encourage small businesses out there to at least be aware of the new PPP (Paycheck Protection Program),” he said. “There’s a second wave of that that’s coming, so make sure you’re talking with your banks, or your tax adviser, CPA, whoever helps you with that, make sure you’re aware of that and be prepared to apply for the funds that are going to be available there.”
County Judge-Executive Huston Wells reported that Franklin County Fiscal Court gave a second wave of funds to the Salvation Army last week that is earmarked for those who need food.
“We also gave $50,000 to ROSM (Resource Office for Social Ministries) to help people in need of food and for their essential needs around house, whether it’s rent, income, utilities,” Wells said.
Wells said those in need of help should contact their church, which would in turn will contact ROSM.
Tom Russell, interim city manager, reminded the community that vaccines won’t change the COVID situation right away.
“What I’d like to remind everybody, once the vaccine starts, after you get your first dose and your second dose, you still have to maintain COVID awareness. It’s not like things are going back to normal right off the bat for several months,” Russell said.
“We still need to maintain COVID awareness — 6 feet, wear your mask — until we get a huge portion of the population vaccinated and you all (the health department) tell us it’s good to go, and we’ll resume normal activities.”