South Heartland District Health Department Begins Phase 1B of Vaccinations

HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever reported 600 doses of the Moderna vaccine had arrived late Tuesday after being delayed by the weather. The health department split out the shipment for several of SHDHD’s vaccination partners, then delivered the vaccine and associated supplies to the health care partners on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, in time for Wednesday’s scheduled COVID-19 vaccine clinics. “We had hoped to start vaccinating on Tuesday, but today’s vaccine clinics were able to put about 20% of this week’s vaccine allotment into the arms of individuals who had signed up to get the vaccine. We are still on track, in spite of the delay,” Bever said.

South Heartland health district has transitioned to Phase 1B which includes individuals age 65+, adults with high-risk medical conditions, and prioritized essential workers. “Nearly all of this week’s vaccine allotment will be directed toward our elderly who are at highest risk, with a reverse-age approach that begins with those age 90+,” Bever said. “We will use a small percent of this week’s doses for essential workers such as law enforcement, fire department personnel and dispatch, as well as some health workers from Phase 1A.”

Bever also reported South Heartland’s COVID-19 risk dropped within the risk dial ‘orange zone’. “We are seeing trends in the right direction for several of our risk dial metrics,” she said. “The district’s overall weekly positivity dropped to 8.9% from 10.3% the previous week and we saw a 21% net decrease in weekly cases from the previous week,” she said. The 14-day average of daily new COVID cases also dropped below 40 cases per 100,000 last week and is currently 32 daily new cases per 100,000, according to SHDHD’s COVID-19 dashboard. Bever said the goal for low community spread is 8 or fewer new cases per 100,000, which equates to four or fewer new cases each day in South Heartland, based on the district’s population.

In addition, Bever said hospital capacity indicators had stabilized or improved, compared to Wednesday of last week. According to SHDHD’s hospital capacity dashboard on January 27, fifty-five percent of ICU beds were available, eighteen percent of inpatients were COVID-positive, there were six COVID-19-positive inpatients with one needing a ventilator.

“All of these steps we are taking, all the tools we are using to block the spread of the coronavirus, are working,” Bever said. “We need to continue doing what’s working.  We need to avoid the three Cs: avoid crowded places, avoid close contact, avoid confined spaces. We need to continue to wear masks that cover our noses and mouths, we need to stay home when we are sick, we need to disinfect frequently-touched surfaces and objects, we need to wash our hands, and we need to get the COVID vaccine when it is our turn,” she said.

“We are asking for patience. Due to limited amounts of vaccine coming to us, it could be many weeks before it is your turn,” she said. “We expect to be in Phase 1B for several months, so please watch the local news media, the health department website and the SHDHD Facebook page for updated information about the status and timeline of the vaccine distribution process.”

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