Although Governor Mike Parson announced the activation of Phase 1B – Tier 1 of Missouri’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan last Thursday, moving into the phase is not as simple as pressing a button.
“We still need more vaccine to complete 1A,” Ste. Genevieve County Health Department administrator Jennifer Mueller said Friday. “But, our plan is to corroborate with the hospital and we are hoping that between the two of us, we receive enough vaccine that we can finish 1A and do 1B all at the same time.”
Of course, nothing is etched in stone.
“That’s our plan,” Mueller emphasized. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. It all depends on the amount of vaccine they’re going to send us.”
The health department orders the vaccine through the state. Much curiosity – sometimes verging on panic – has been expressed locally and around the state, as senior citizens and others not covered in Phase 1A await word on a time line of when the vaccine will be available.
“It’s unreal, the number of phone calls,” Mueller said. “But I get it; people are curious.”
A press release issued by the Health Department Friday morning also addressed the issue.
“At this time we do not have a waiting list, or a way to sign up for the vaccine, so please be patient,” it said. “Once we open up appointments, we will let the public know. Unfortunately we still do not have a time frame of when the state will send us more vaccine.”
“We will continue our efforts in requesting the vaccine for our community and plan to put out a public notice once email confirmation of the vaccine shipment is received. This notice will be posted on our website, our social media page, as well as sending it to Sun-Times news and the Herald. We hope this will help to reach the majority, if not all our community members who wish to get vaccinated.”
MUELLER REPORTS TO COMMISSIONERS
On Thursday morning, Mueller reported to the Ste. Genevieve County Commission. She reported that the county’s commutative total of COVID-19 cases was 1,614. There were just 37 active cases, though, although there were another 181 probable cases. There had been 15 deaths and one probable death, she said.
“We’re manageable, still,” Mueller said.
She emphasized that the virus wasn’t going to disappear over night.
“We’re not going to change anything,” she said. “You know what I mean? It’s not going anywhere.”
Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson praised Mueller for quickly getting the Health Department’s business end caught up and running smoothly again. During several months of repeated turnover at the top of the department, billing and other paperwork had fallen behind, cutting into the department’s revenue stream.
“I don’t know how you got everything done in the time you got it done,” Nelson said. “You had to really put in some time. It needed to be done and you got it done and that’s good. We’re all very proud of you taking it to heart like that.”
Nelson then brought up the similarities between COVID-19 and the flu. He noted that Second District Commissioner Randy Ruzicka, several months before he took office, had shared a print-out of an online article that questioned the validity of many positive COVID-19 tests. “Basically, what it was alluding was that they’re all in the same family of viruses,” Ruzicka said.
Mueller said she believes current tests do isolate COVID-19 from influenza and various coronavirus strains.
“Usually, this time of year, at least five or 10 people (in the county) have the flu,” Nelson said. This year there are no known cases of the flu currently in the county.
“One of the reasons is because wee do have more people – not everybody – but we do have more people going out, wearing masks and taking more precautions,” associate clerk Michele Gatzemeyer said. “Those are cutting down on it because, in the past, nobody did it.”
“It cuts down on the common cold and the flu,” Nelson agreed.
Mueller added that the Health Department has given more flu shots that every has in the past.
Nelson also wondered whether COVID-19 numbers might be higher than they should be, due to misdiagnosed flu cases.
“Are the numbers being raised some because of flu?” he asked. “We don’t know.”
Nelson also told Mueller that Wayne Armbruster, who transports eggs in a refrigerated truck, had offered to pick up and bring back vaccines for Mueller, should the need ever arise.
“It was very good of him to offer that,” Nelson said, “even if you can’t use it.”
Gatzemeyer asked about Phase 1B. (This was about three hours before Gov. Parson made his announcement.) She sisal she had heard some counties had already moved into Phase 1B.
“Yes, and they’re getting their hands slapped,” Mueller said. ‘Every call I listen to, they are not thrilled with those that have moved on without permission. They want those who have extra vaccines and a re moving on, to give it back or redistribute it to county that still have people who need to be vaccinated.”