Colusa County Public Health has announced that a 12th resident has died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The death comes amid a downward trend in active cases of coronavirus, although Colusa County remains in Tier 1 on the state’s blueprint, Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Kelly reported to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
“Our case rate per 100,000 per day is 20.9, which is considered still as widespread, which is the Purple Tier,” Kelly said. “Our overall testing positively over seven days with a seven-day lag is 7.8 percent, which is identified as Tier 2, which is substantial. Our testing rate per 100,000 over seven days with a seven-day lag is 252.3. Our seven-day average of new cases per day, seven-day lag, is 5.57.”
As of Feb. 11, Colusa County had received 2,485 doses of the coronavirus vaccine with 923 distributed to Health Care providers countywide for distribution to patients, and 799 doses were administered by Public Health.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has now shifted the distribution of vaccines to a third-party administrator – Blue Shield.
Newsom authorized the $15 million no-bid contract through his emergency powers authority on Monday. Blue Shield will be tasked with creating a vaccine network built in three geographical waves, officials said.
“The key functions for the third-party administrator are the contracts and developing the state vaccine network,” Kelly said.
Kelly said she was still uncertain how Colusa County would be affected by rollout of the new state program, but she anticipates county Public Health Departments will be included. Criteria for vaccine distribution will be based on five parameters (COVID rates per population, COVID deaths, vaccines administered, etc.)
“For each parameter, the county is ranked from one to 58, where one is the highest need,” Kelly said.
While all the details of the governor’s new vaccination program are being worked out, Kelly said the state has made it very clear that Colusa County cannot hold any inventory of vaccine longer than seven days, whether they are needed for first or second doses.
“For our purposes, we have never wasted any doses to date,” she said. “We have not had to throw out any.”
However, Kelly said it has been difficult to plan vaccinations due to the lack of consistent distribution. Colusa County was notified that it would receive 200 vaccine doses this week, compared to 50 that were received last week.
“It’s difficult to plan when I don’t know when or if I will get vaccine,” she said.
Public Health is also working with local Health Care providers to make sure they are open to new patients, so that everyone will have access to the vaccine when the doses become available.
Beginning March 15, Health Care providers will also be able to use their clinical judgement to vaccinate those under 65, based on health conditions that may put them at a higher risk for COVID-19 disease.
Kelly said Public Health Officer, Dr. Gregory Burt, said that frontline Public Health workers will not make any health determinations.
Kelly said that as much as she would like to vaccinate everyone who wants the vaccine, she has no control over the distribution.
“Even if I can get you a first dose, I can’t guarantee a second dose at this point because I don’t know when they’re coming,” she added.
Because Colusa County will not have large public vaccinations clinics for coronavirus, as they do for influenza, Kelly said the public’s best chances of getting vaccinated, especially if they are elderly, is through their own doctor or by establishing a relationship with a doctor, including Dr. Burt, who is taking new patients at his Yuba City practice.
“Especially if you are 75 or older,” Kelly said.
Kelly also reported to the Board of Supervisors that Public Health staff have faced hostility from people who have unrealistic expectations when it comes to vaccine availability, including hostility from people who are younger than 65 and not at risk of severe complications from the virus.
“They want it now,” she said. “I know that it’s a no-win, but we are doing the best we can. And I want everybody to be vaccinated. Everyone that wants to be vaccinated should be vaccinated, but (there’s a) slow drip of vaccine that comes into this county.”
Rite Aid and CVS are now part of the federal list of pharmacy partners that will receive the Moderna vaccine. Both companies will schedule appointments online when the vaccines become available and will not accept walk-in patients.
“Their target population includes people over 65 and health care workers,” Kelly said. ♣