Colusa County is expected to receive a small amount of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine this week to give to selected health care workers at Colusa Medical Center and Valley West Care Center.
Health and Human Services Director, Elizabeth Kelly, said 168 doses of the vaccine were allocated to the county in the first round of distribution, although the California Department of Public Health announced last week that the state would receive an additional 300,000 Pfizer shots for distribution from what was originally expected.
Mercy Medical Center, in Redding, received the shipment of vaccines last week, with each of the nine counties within Region III allocated a specific amount.
Kelly said the initial allocation is not enough to vaccinate all CMC healthcare workers, but Colusa County expects to receive a yet unspecified number of doses of the Moderna vaccine in the next couple of weeks.
There are currently 180 health care workers at Valley West, who will likely be first in line for vaccination, as the disease has been especially deadly to elderly residents of nursing homes.
The Ffizer vaccine is given in two doses – a primer and a booster 21 days apart. The Moderna vaccine doses are given 28 days apart. Health officials said both are effective at reducing the risk of severe COVID disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The vaccines are free of charge – and voluntary, Kelly said.
Kelly said the plan is to pick up 100 doses of the vaccine at a time to distribute, due to the vaccine’s volatile nature. As additional doses are allocated, Colusa County will begin distribution of the vaccine to the remaining health care workers, first responders, and Valley West residents.
The Colusa County Board of Supervisors last week approved the purchase of a 21cf ultra low temperature freezer from K2Scientific to store the vaccine. The total cost for the freezer, which is expected to ship in mid-January, is $8,333.
While the community at large could possibly expect to receive vaccinations by April of 2021, Kelly believes that could be pushed to early summer, depending on national, statewide or local COVID-19 conditions.
As of Monday, Colusa County had 205 active cases of COVID-19 and 291 people quarantined.
In addition to the county’s tier status, which is currently considered widespread, the state has implemented ICU capacity for the purpose of imposing shutdowns. Colusa has three ICU beds but none were occupied as of last week.
The county has averaged about 6 new cases a day over a 7-day period, with health care workers now starting to get sick, officials said.
Kelly said the average age of people testing positive for COVID-19 is 39 years old. Of the total positive cases, 64 percent are Hispanic/Latino; 19 percent are non-Hispanic, and 17 are unknown (not specified).
Kelly said Public Health officials are currently maintaining contact tracing and contact investigations. However, with increasing cases, people seem to be less likely to respond to inquiries in order for the county to reach out to others on quarantine guidance.
“That has become an issue,” said Kelly, who added that some people refuse to answer their phones.
The increase in local COVID-19 cases did cause Colusa County on Monday to begin triaging case investigations. Under the new protocols, case investigations and contact tracing will be given priority to adults 65 and older, healthcare workers, people at increased risk for complications and those with underlying conditions, and high risk families, officials said.
While a new strain of coronavirus has been reported in the United Kingdom, which resulted in Canada – the U.S.’s neighbor to the north – shutting off travel to their country from the UK, world health officials do not believe the new strain causes a more severe form of the disease.
Meanwhile, Mexico announced Thursday that the U.S.-Mexico border will remain closed to all but “essential crossings” until at least Jan. 21.
The closure remains despite plans made by hundreds of Colusa County families to journey to Mexico over the Christmas holiday. Although crossing the border for tourism, family visits, and shopping are prohibited, air travel between the United States and Mexico remains unrestricted.
Likewise, Mexican’s, and other foreign nationals with U.S. tourist visas are not permitted to enter the United States by land, rail, or sea unless they can prove their trip falls under the definition of “essential travel.”
Until the public is vaccinated, health officials have asked people to remain diligent about keeping a six foot distance from other people, wear face coverings in public, stay home if sick, and wash hands often.
“We have to realize the power and authority to control this virus is in each of our hands,” said Chairwoman Denise Carter. “It’s not in the county, or the cities, or the federal government. It’s really up to us as individuals right now. That’s the bottom line: personal responsibility.”