coronavirus cell

The Jefferson County Health Department reported 109 new COVID-19 cases today (Jan. 26), for a total of 20,205 cases since the first ones were reported in March.

Of the county’s total coronavirus cases, 1,302 have been at long-term care facilities, which includes residents and staff members who live in Jefferson County.

The county has had 164 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began, and 66 of those were from long-term care facilities, the Health Department reported.

The county has an estimated 693 active cases, according to the Health Department.

Brianne Zwiener, communications specialist with the Health Department, said the agency doesn’t follow up with all cases anymore, and the number of active cases is meant to give the public a “general estimate.”

The county remains at the red level on the Health Department’s COVID-19 warning system. Red is the highest level on the Health Department’s four-color system and indicates widespread and uncontrolled transmission of the virus.

Health Department officials urge residents to take steps to prevent the spread of the virus, like wearing masks as stipulated by the county mask order, which has been extended until 5 p.m. Feb. 25.

The order is a joint order with the county government and requires residents to wear face masks in public spaces when social distancing cannot be maintained, but it does not call for any type of fine or penalty for people who violate it.

Residents are also advised to avoid nonessential travel, avoid crowds, practice social distancing and frequent hand-washing, and stay home if you are sick.

Special board meeting

The Board of Trustees voted 3-1 during a special meeting today to enter an intergovernmental agreement with the St. Louis County Department of Public Health to potentially receive COVID-19 vaccines.

The agreement will allow the St. Louis County Department of Public Health to give any extra COVID-19 vaccines it may have to the Jefferson County Health Department.

“The idea is to have all of the paperwork, which is the holdup for a lot of this, in place so no vaccine goes to waste and we are able to immunize our residents as quickly as possible,” Health Department Director Kelley Vollmar said.

Board chairman Dennis Diehl and board members Tim Pigg and Amber Henry voted in favor of the agreement, and Suzy Davis voted cast the dissenting vote, after raising questions about risks the vaccine could pose. Fellow board member James Prater was absent from the meeting, which was held via Zoom.

The Health Department has ordered vaccines, but as of today has not received any, Vollmar said.

Jeana Vidacak, public health preparedness coordinator, has said the agency hopes to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine by the end of January or the start of February.

Currently the Health Department can only receive the Moderna vaccine because of the agency doesn’t have the proper cold storage for the Pfizer vaccine, which needs to be stored around -70 degrees Celsius. The Moderna vaccine only requires cold storage at around -20 degrees Celsius.

Vollmar said the Health Department is currently trying to get an “ultra-cold freezer” so it could store the Pfizer vaccine.

The board’s next regular monthly meeting will be at 3 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 28) on Zoom and will be livestreamed on its YouTube channel.

Vaccine registration

The Health Department is registering residents for the COVID-19 vaccine. To sign up, residents must complete a form, and they will be contacted when they are eligible to be vaccinated.

Those interested in signing up for one of the vaccines may do so online at hipaa.jotform.com/210126757688060.

Comtrea, which offers health care services around the county, also is signing up residents for COVID-19 vaccinations and has received two shipments of vaccines. The first shipment included 250 vaccines, which were administered to Comtrea’s front-line employees.

The second shipment was for 1,000 vaccines, and once the rest of Comtrea’s staff is vaccinated, the agency plans to administer vaccines to the public, based on each person’s eligibility, marketing communications manager Nathanael Herbert said.

He said Comtrea plans to hold a vaccine clinic sometime next week in the gym at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Crystal City, but the time and date of the clinic had not yet been set.

To sign up through Comtrea, go to comtrea.org/vaccine-inquiry.

Mercy also has created an online sign-up method to help distribute vaccines to those eligible under the state’s vaccination plan. Anyone seeking the vaccine may visit mercy.net/MOVaccine to see if they are eligible under the current phase and register to receive a vaccine.

Vaccinations are being administered to those in Phase 1A and Phase 1B-Tier 1.

Phase 1A includes patient-facing health care workers and long-term care facility staff and residents, according to the Health Department.

Phase is 1B-Tier 1 includes essential workers in emergency services and the public health infrastructure.

After that, Phase 1B-Tier 2 will begin and includes people 65 and older, as well as high-risk people between 18 and 64, including those with cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, heart conditions, weakened immune systems due to organ transplant, severe obesity (BMI >40), pregnancy, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, or intellectual and/or developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome.

Next will be Phase 1B-Tier 3, which includes essential workers in education, childcare, communications, information technology, transportation, government, food production and agriculture, energy, water and wastewater treatment and other fields.

Phase 2 includes populations at increased risk, like prisoners and homeless people. The last phase, which is Phase 3, includes all Missouri residents.

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