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Jefferson County wants to reopen businesses but also wants more COVID vaccines

People aged 75 and older calling the public health department for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment will have to get in line.

Jefferson County health care providers have far less vaccine than they need, despite promises from the state the supply will improve,

"We are so frustrated in public health," says Michael Baker, Jefferson County's Public Health Director. "We are ready to do more but feel like we're being reigned back. We're going slower than we should."

The county received enough vaccine for 200 first doses this week but is 400 doses short of what they need to provide second doses. Baker says they've been assured those second doses, but the county does not have vials in hand.

All of those 200 doses are spoken for. The public health department has 1,200 people on a waiting list, waiting to make an appointment or hoping to stand in for a no-show.

A new wrinkle in the vaccine process this week, pharmacies contracting with the federal government to provide the shots, gives people another avenue to the vaccine. In Madras, Safeway pharmacy provides the vaccine. The store currently gets 100 doses a week. People who are eligible can register for an appointment at safeway.com.

"My gut reaction is, 'Great! More vaccine is always a good thing.'" says Baker. "But the communication and the priorities and the working together is somehow lost in the process."

Pharmacies are not required to report who gets the shots to the county health department.

While people line up for vaccines, restaurants and other businesses strain at the gate to reopen for business. To qualify for lower restrictions, Jefferson County must have fewer than 60 cases over a two-week period.

"If you had asked me a week ago, I would have said we're pretty close." Baker says a week ago Jefferson County was one day away from being reclassified to a lower risk category when the county saw a spike in cases.

While Deschutes County restaurants may open for limited indoor seating, the "extreme risk" status restricts Jefferson County restaurants to take out, deliveries or outdoor seating for at least two more weeks.

Baker sees the uptick in cases as evidence people are letting their guard down. "We're not anywhere near herd immunity. Cases in general are dropping across the state, but we in Jefferson County are swinging back up."

If the community wants businesses to open, Baker says people need to maintain the hygiene that prevents spreading the virus. "It's not glamorous. It's not exciting," says Baker, but stay 6 feet apart, wear masks, wash your hands and don't gather in groups outside your family.

COVID VACCINE INFORMATION

PEOPLE ELIGIBLE FOR VACCINES:

Health care professionals

• First responders

• People living in congregate care such as nursing homes and prisons • Educators

• People age 75 and older

HOW TO SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT:

• Call Jefferson County Public Health, 541-475-4456, to schedule an appointment

• Go to safeway.com to register for an appointment

• Contact your health care provider

SIGN UP FOR ALERTS

• Text ORCOVID to 898211

• Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

• Call 211 or 1-866-689-6155 between 6 a.m. - 7 p.m. daily, including holidays (expect long waits)

• TTY: Dial 711 and call 1-866-689-6155


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