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Second Floyd County COVID-19 vaccine clinic for age 65 and older is set

Second Floyd County COVID-19 vaccine clinic for age 65 and older is set
One of the vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Each vial holds 10 doses. Press photo by Bob Steenson
By Bob Steenson, bsteenson@charlescitypress.com

The second Floyd County COVID-19 vaccination clinic for persons age 65 and older has been set for next week, and the call-in center to make appointments to receive the shots will open Saturday morning.

Floyd County Public Health announced Monday the next public vaccine clinic will begin at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at the Youth Enrichment Center at the Floyd County Fairgrounds.

Two-hundred doses of the Moderna vaccine will be available at the clinic next week, twice the number that is available at the first clinic that is being held today (Tuesday).

The call-in center will open at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, to make appointments for the first dose at the Feb. 16 clinic, as well as to schedule the follow-up dose at least 28 days later.

Once again, appointments will be on a first-come, first-served basis for those who can get through on the phone lines, and the state has promised that the second dose will be available for all those who get the first dose.

Floyd County Supervisor Linda Tjaden, who is also chair of the Floyd County Emergency Management Commission, said she had heard from Floyd County Public Health Administrator Gail Arjes that the state was going to start sending 300 doses every week through the month of February.

“Again, not a lot, but that’s more than the 100. And those will be for the 65 and older,” she said. Other options are also becoming available.

Tjaden also talked about how the first call-in center went last week, including complaints that have been made about the procedures.

“I do want to bring up a few things,” she said at the Board of Supervisors workshop meeting Monday morning. “I’m hearing all kinds of things.”

She said she has heard that the appointment schedules were all made out before the phone lines opened at 9 a.m., but said there’s no truth to that.

“I just want to reiterate I was one of the people in the room,” Tjaden said. “There were four of us. I looked at my clock, and I said, ‘Nobody starts until 9 o’clock,’ and when I gave them the go-ahead we started taking the calls.”

She said there were also rumors that all the doses were accounted for in the first couple of minutes but the county didn’t do anything to let people know that the call center had closed.

Actually, she said, it took about two hours to schedule appointments for all 100 doses and the follow-up “boost” doses. The last call was finished about 11 a.m.

“As soon as we did the last call I went on and put the message on that we were done. We did change that message right away so that anyone calling in at that point did get that message,” Tjaden said.

Doing the math, four people answering the phone for 100 doses means each person handled about 25 appointments. If the call center closed after two hours that’s less than five minutes spent on each call, to get personal information, answer some health questions, schedule the first dose time then set an appointment for the second dose.

“From our perspective in the call center everything worked just like we wanted it to,” Tjaden said. “We picked up a phone, we got the information, we quickly gave them their scheduled time, gave them the information that they needed, plus that we needed to collect from them. You’d hang up the phone and the next call came in.”

But she said she also understood the frustration of those trying to call in, who were likely to get a busy signal on repeated attempts because of the call volume.

People posted on social media reports of trying to call hundreds of times, often without ever being successful.

“I’ve got statistics on how many calls were coming in at every moment,” Tjaden said. “At one point there were close to 700 calls at 10 o’clock. There was a lot of people trying to get in, for only 100 doses.”

There were a couple of things they will work on changing, she said, including a sign-up “list” that many people have been calling for.

One problem at the first clinic was the message that had been playing on the call-in number before the clinic opened continued to play for people who got through after the call-in center opened, and people didn’t know they had to wait until the message ended and the line started ringing.

Tjaden said she agreed that was confusing, and that would be changed.

They are also looking at more phone lines and the option of an online registration, although that won’t be available for the next clinic.

They are looking at letting people register on the county website, then when the scheduling for the next clinic begins the county volunteers would call the people on the list.

She said the county avoided a list to begin with because initially people would have had to call to be placed on the list.

“That’s what we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want people calling us to put them on a list then when we did get the vaccine we have to call them back. … If we can make this work, people can log on to our website and fill out just basic information, name, phone number, address, just that would suffice for that list. So then when we do have a clinic that we’re setting up, we can go out and print those lists out and then call them,” she said.

“We need to work out, are there limitations to so many people being online at the same time trying to fill out a form. Would it crash? I want to make sure we can do this and make it work for us. Not this next go-around, but maybe in a couple of weeks we will have something like that.”

Supervisor Roy Schwickerath said they need to keep in mind that not all county residents have access to the internet.

“We understand that, but there were a lot of grandchildren calling in for their grandparents Friday,” Tjaden said. “Or some it was the daughter or the son who lived two states away but they were calling for their parents that live here in this county. So they’re finding ways, but I still think it would help out the masses (to have an online signup).”

Gail Arjes confirmed Monday that someone who is calling in for their parents, or a person who has a spouse who is also eligible to receive the vaccine, can make appointments for both of them on the one call.

Tjaden said she realizes it’s frustrating for people now, but there’s not much that can be done to prevent that when many, many more people want the vaccine than the number of doses available.

“I remind everybody, this was a good test — first time that we had done this. It was just 100 doses, so we couldn’t take any more calls than what we did,” she said.

And, she said, “There’s going to be other avenues that people can take so they don’t just have to rely on us.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health announced last week that Walgreens and CVS pharmacies have vaccine available for persons age 65 and older in limited counties, including the Mason City locations in Cerro Gordo County. For more information, go to walgreens.com and click on the “COVID-19 vaccine information” link or go to CVS.com and click on the “Get COVID-10 vaccine info” link.

Mitchell County has also begun a registration list, available by calling 641-832-3500.

Tjaden said the Hy-Vee pharmacy will also have COVID-19 vaccine available at some point, through that company’s own arrangement with the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Main Street Drug is also listed by the state as a potential vaccine site.

Tjaden noted that Cynthia Uetz, the pharmacist and owner of Main Street Drug, helped vaccinate day care providers last week and also administered the vaccine to staff at Immaculate Conception Elementary School on Friday.

“Cindy has been a big help. She stepped up,” Tjaden said.

“We also do not turn people away,” she said. “If they call here from another county or if any of our county residents want to go to another county and get a vaccine shot, they can do that.”

As of Monday, all of Tier 1 of the state’s Phase 1B — the emergency responders including law enforcement, firefighters and ambulance, other health care providers and all the teachers and registered day care providers in Floyd County — had received at least their first dose, and some have already received their second dose.

“This is everybody that is wanting vaccine. I want to remind everybody that not everybody is maybe lining up for it. But those that wanted it did get them,” Tjaden said.

According to the state COVID-19 data website, as of Monday evening, 1,582 residents of Floyd County had received at least their first dose, and of those 442 has also received the boost dose. Those doses were not all received in Floyd County, though.

The state site shows that 920 doses have been administered in Floyd County, and 247 of the doses were the second dose. And those doses may not have all gone to Floyd County residents.

As of Monday, there have been 1,447 cases of COVID-19 identified in the county, and 38 deaths related to the virus. The 14-day positivity rate was 5.7% and the 7-day positivity rate was 4.1%.

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