Douglas County preps for COVID-19 vaccination rollout; mayor supports facemask ordinance extension
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said Tuesday she was discouraged by the slow pace of COVID-19 vaccinations, warning that “it may take a year” to get everyone vaccinated.
Dr. Pour said during the local COVID-19 response update Tuesday that as Douglas County begins to prioritize Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccinations for those ages 65 and older at the top of the list. The pharmacy program will be vaccinating independent living facilities on-site, with clinics across the county to prevent anyone from having to travel very far to get the vaccine.
The county is planning to have vaccination sites downtown and in Millard; north Omaha, likely somewhere along 72nd Street; and Christ Community Church on 108th Street, which has hosted 16 previous vaccination events, she said.
Dr. Pour said specifics on the opening dates and hours will be announced in the coming days, and an appointment system will be available. More than 150,000 have registered on the county’s notification sign-up, which will facilitate the distribution of how to register for a COVID-19 vaccination once Phase 1B doses are available.
The county plans to prioritize those ages 80 and older during the first two weeks of Phase 1B distribution, Pour said.
“We are not sitting on a single vaccine,” Pour said, noting that if more vaccine-makers are approved, that could jump-start the number of doses available to this area. Pour said she hoped that a third vaccine will be approved in order to increase the pace of vaccination.
She said this week marked the first week the county has received a consistent amount of COVID-19 vaccine doses: 6,600.
“That’s a very small amount per week. ...That’s 29% of what’s being allocated to the state of Nebraska,” Pour said, noting that the state has chosen to allocate its doses based on the percentage of elder populations rather than entire populations.
Pour said she was frustrated by the slow rollout but remains hopeful the number of available vaccines will increase, which will speed up the distribution.
The health director said 82% of the county’s COVID-19 deaths have been residents ages 65 or older and encouraged continued testing.
“You never know when you potentially have an exposure,” she said.
Pour said there had been a decline in testing numbers despite encouragement for — and improvements in — continued testing as well as consistency in testing sites.
The demographics of positive cases are more closely mirroring that of the population, she said, which was a change from earlier in the pandemic when the Hispanic population was affected at a higher rate. That was the same time outbreaks were being identified at meat-packing plants.
The current hospitalization number — 198 — was also good news, she said, as it was the first time since October that the county had fewer than 200 COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Pour reported that the county’s COVID-19 fatality rate was 0.97%, which said was lower than the state average of 1%. The county is seeing a decline in COVID-19 deaths, with 47 so far in January, she said. Since the first reported COVID-19 death in Douglas County was reported March 28 — that of an individual who had traveled and returned back to the area — November seems to have been the deadliest COVID-19 month locally, Pour said. That month, 145 died of COVID-19, while 114 died of COVID-19 in December.
Facemask ordinance update
Mayor Stothert said she would support the City Council’s plan to extend the city’s facemask ordinance extension until May 25.
“I think the more that we learn about this virus and the more that we learn from our public health experts, these masks do indeed work,” she said. “And if we can do anything to help prevent the spread and protect others, we should be doing that.”
Omaha economic recovery plan
Stothert also talked about the city’s budget plans and outlined a checklist of 10 strategic priorities for the coming year:
- Reinforce public safety as a top priority by authorizing the 2021 Omaha Police recruit class, slated to begin in April
- Extend the city’s facemask ordinance to May, as proposed by the City Council
- Distribute funds for rent and utility assistance, including an additional $22.2 million obtained via the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021
- The mayor and Councilman Ben Gray will be working together to promote and encourage COVID-19 vaccinations
- Manage the city’s budget and allocate last year’s budget surplus to the city’s reserves
- Address unemployment by expanding community service funding and neighborhood grants for job training and work readiness programs
- Restore the city’s tourism industry and hospitality sector jobs
- Identify additional recovery needs and strategies with the help of the COVID advisory board
The mayor’s office also outlined a timetable for the completion of these events on the city’s website.
Watch Tuesday’s news conference
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