Stanly health dept. prepares for ‘Group 3’ vaccination event on Saturday

(Source: Jesse Deal)

ALBEMARLE — As the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations in Stanly County reaches 4,781 first doses and 1,418 second doses, the county’s health department is preparing to reach its goal of vaccinating 500 school personnel and childcare workers at a special event this Saturday. 

The health department has identified eligible participants who fall under the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ category of Group 3 frontline essential workers; this includes the county’s childcare providers, teachers, bus drivers, maintenance staff and food service workers. 

“We have a special teacher-focused day that we’ll be doing on the 27th at the Commons in partnership with Atrium Health and our school board,” county manager Andy Lucas told SCJ. “Right now, it’s our understanding that there are about 500 teachers and childcare workers that are seeking the vaccine in Stanly County, so it’s our goal to provide those shots this Saturday.”  

While officials are hoping to make headway with Saturday’s event, Stanly County health director David Jenkins says the priority going forward will still be on vaccinating the 65-and-older group as well as local healthcare workers who haven’t yet received the vaccine.  

The bulk of the county’s vaccinations have transpired at a drive-thru setup in the Stanly County Commons parking lot outside of the health department, an arrangement that Jenkins refers to simply as “the tent.” Those who have successfully qualified to receive a vaccine can pick a time slot and drive up to the tent, where they can receive a shot without exiting their vehicles.  

So far, the county has been averaging over 300 appointments per day.  

“We have the potential to do probably 400, capacity-wise, but we’ve definitely worked our way up,” Jenkins told SCJ. “We still have a few technology issues we’re trying to work out….we’re trying to streamline it to where it’s just one system to capture it all out here with our iPads.” 

Jenkins says that his team has been making the gradual transition from doing all the COVID-19 testing in the county to contracting with other agencies for testing assistance, allowing the health department to focus more on the vaccination process.  

“I know Moose Pharmacy, CVS and Walgreens are getting it worked out to get doses so it will likely expand that way so we don’t hold the entire burden of trying to get everybody vaccinated. The sooner we get more people vaccinated, the better off we’ll be,” Jenkins said.  

As of the county’s Feb. 22 COVID-19 data, the NCDHHS is reporting 69 new positive cases that included a total of 6,409 cases; there are currently 12 hospitalizations and 128 overall deaths. 

While the health department is making progress, after initially struggling with a lack of manpower to run the vaccination tent and phone lines, it has put a pause on its routine public health clinics — the hope is that those clinics will be able to resume as soon as possible. Overall, Jenkins is pleased with the community’s ability to come together to make a “team effort.” 

“We’ve got a couple temporary nurses and volunteers from Stanly Community College who have stepped up, so we really appreciate them. We also have a few people from EMS who have helped fill in,” he said. “It’s all hands on deck from all our programs. This is obviously something we’re not used to and don’t have a playbook for, but we just have to figure it out as we go.”