By MARK EVANS
Ste. Genevieve County Health Department administrator Jennifer Mueller had good news and bad news for the County Commission last Thursday.
The bad news is that the county has still been unable to get additional doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. While Gov. Mike Parson gave counties permission the previous week to move into Phase 1B, the Health Department still needs more of the vaccine to finish taking care of everyone in Phase 1A.
“We order every week,” Mueller said. “We order vaccine. We’re waiting.”
She said she heard that Moderna released only 34,000 doses to Missouri.
“That’s not many,” she said.
She added that the Health Department will continue working with Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital (SGCMH) in giving the shots.
She said she had originally hoped that enough doses could be obtained to finish Phase 1A and do all of 1B at the same time. She said she now fears that is unlikely.
“My fear is it will likely only be 1A that we can finish,” she said.
Which group can start trying to get shots is confusing people.
The original Center for Disease Control (CDC) table listed long-term care facility residents and staff then patient-facing health care workers as the only Phase 1A groups. Phase 1B begins with high-risk individuals under 65 and everyone 65 and up. First responders and other “essential” workers, like childcare workers, reachers, water/wastewater and energy workers, critical manufacturing workers and food/agriculture workers, are also in Phase 1B.
Mueller said, though, that the CDC had done some tinkering with that chart, adding various emergency services personnel to the 1A group.
Again, the state has since transitioned in Phase 1B, but Ste. Genevieve County is still waiting on enough doses to vaccinate the rest of its Phase 1A population.
“That’s what’s confusing people,” Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson said “They watch TV and they say, ‘Now 65 and older can get it,’ but you’re not done with the first phase.”
That has led to many calls.
“Three different people called me Monday to ask if they can get a shot here,” Nelson said.
“The phone never quits ringing,” Mueller agreed.
The Cape Girardeau County Health Department and St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau have been taking appointments for vaccinations. Mueller said that Cape County ordered 10 sleeves of the Phizer vaccine and got four of them, with 975 doses apiece. All of the nearly 4,000 appointments were set up by the end of that day, Mueller said.
“I’m thankful that they take people from our county,” Mueller said. “The people who wanted it, some of them got in.”
“I want people to understand that you have no control over it,” Nelson told Mueller. “They (the state) will give it to you when they’re ready.”
Second District Commissioner Randy Ruzicka added that, “Everybody wants a date” for when they can get the vaccine.
NATIONAL GUARD TO BE DEPLOYED
Mueller’s good news was that word had come from Parson’s office that the state will be deploying National Guard personnel to deliver vaccine to all nine Missouri Highway Patrol regions.
“There is no date on when,” she said. “They are starting in Region E tomorrow. In Butler County they’ll be giving 1,000 doses.”
She added that they must be using the Phizer vaccine to begin with, if too many doses are available.
“They’re starting in the southeast because it’s smaller,” she said. Region E includes Cape, Scott, Madison, Iron, Butler, Stoddard, Dunklin, Pemiscot, Wayne, Ripley and Mississippi counties.
Mueller noted that local residents do not have to get the vaccine in Ste. Genevieve County – or even in Region C (which includes Ste. Genevieve, St. Francois, Perry, Washington, Franklin, Warren, Lincoln and Pike counties).
“We’ll publicize every region, because anybody can go to any region,”Mueller said, “as long as it’s the state of Missouri.”
She is glad to see the Guard get involved.
“The nice thing is that the National Guard will do everything except physically give the shots,” she said.
The Guard will handle all scheduling, paperwork, etc.
“I’m very excited about this,” Mueller said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have any idea when it will come close to here. But, it’s a start.”
Once the National Guard is set up, an internet link will be available to make appointments.
Sadly, there has been a telephone scam reported, in which senior citizens get calls, purportedly from St. Francis, seeking their social security number to set up their appointment. St. Francis has urged people to be cautious and has said they will not ask for such information over the phone.
“The poor seniors,” Mueller said.
COUNTY’S ACTIVE CASES REMAINING LOW
Mueller reported that the county’s commutative total was up to 1,636 since March 2020. There were only 24 active cases, lower than recent weeks, when the number tended to be in the 40s, 50s and 60s.