Low COVID Numbers Mixed Blessing

By MARK EVANS

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Ste. Genevieve County’s COVID-19 numbers are low, which is both a good and a bad thing.

The county had just 27 active cases last Thursday, but had still received well below 1,000 total doses of vaccine.

Jennifer Mueller, county health department administrator told the Ste. Genevieve County Commission that 

the organization and Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital (SGCMH) had collectively received 500 doses for this Tuesday’s immunization event at the Ste. Genevieve County Community Center. Progress Sports Complex.

“We collectively received 500 doses, which already are spoken for, for Tuesday at the community center,” she said. “Luckily the hospital was able to get another 400 that will be given Wednesday.”

She added that, “The phones have been going beyond crazy” with people calling with questions and wanting to sign up for shots.

The Health Department got 300 doses of the Moderna vaccine and the hospital got 200 originally, before SGCMH received the additional 400 doses.

Mueller hopes they can continue to get shipments of vaccine and can gradually take care of all residents who want the vaccine.

“Hopefully we can keep knocking it out,” she said.

This is where the county’s respectable COVID numbers hurt it. Other than a spike in October and November, the county’s active cases have remained stable, averaging in the 50s for several weeks, before tailing off into the 20s in recent weeks.

“They’re kind of going by the confirmed cases in the county,” Mueller explained. “I think our numbers are low, as far as our active cases … Cape Girardeau County’s numbers were higher and Scott  County’s  numbers are higher.”

She added that Cape County also has more hospitals. Since hospitals are part of the plan for dispensing the vaccine, this has also led to counties like it getting more doses to work with.

“The rural counties aren’t really getting the vaccine because our active cases, the numbers are lower,” Mueller said.

“They’re looking to really get it out to places where its’s really [reaching] critical levels,” Second District Commissioner Randy Ruzicka said. “So, it’s kind of a double-edged sword. We’ve actually done better, which a good thing. But it hurts us in getting the allocation.”

Ruzicka lamented that the public does not seem to understand that the state dispenses the vaccine and that it has been given out very sparingly so far.

“You apply and you get what they give you,” he said to Mueller.

“If we can keep giving 400 or 500 at a time, we’ll get there,” Mueller said. “Right now it’s only open to 1A, 1B, Tier 1 and Tier 2.”

DEFINING THE CDC PHASES

Phase 1A includes all patient-facing health care personnel, congregate care residents and staff, EMS and high-risk non-congregate heath care providers and vaccinator staff and those administering COVID testing.

Tier 1 of Phase 1B includes first responders, emergency services, emergency management and public works personnel and non-patient-facing public health care personnel.

Tier 2 includes anyone age 65 and older, and adults 18-64 with certain health conditions, such as cancer, Chronic Kidney Disease, COPD, Heart Conditions, weakened immune system due to organ transplant, severe obesity, pregnancy, Sickle Cell Disease, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, or individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome.

Tier 3 covers critical infrastructure workers in education, childcare, energy production, food/agriculture government, information technology, nuclear reactors and waste sites, transportation, and water/wastewater systems.

She told the commissioners, “You’d be amazed at the people who cannot understand” that  they don’t qualify for Phase 1A or 1B and therefore have to wait until those groups are vaccinated.

“I’ve gotten calls that we didn’t do enough in the fall to get vaccines,” Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson said. “We had zero to say about it. You have basically zero to say about it. You get what they tell you you are going to get.”

“People are so angry,” associate county clerk Michele Gatzemeyer said, “but we don’t have any control.”

Other counties have had vaccine dates, such as Cape Girardeau Perryville and Poplar Bluff. Mueller tressed that any Missouri resident may go to any location to get the shots.

“We keep encouraging people, ‘if you hear that there are clinics at Mercy in Perryville, go, go,’” Mueller said.

Some of the clinics have gone better than others. One in Poplar Bluff did not require advance registrations and was chaotic, according to descriptions.

“It’s important to follow the protocol,” Ruzicka said. “Look at what group is available to get it. If you’re not in that group, do not go there and clog it up for the people that are in that group.”