By Debra Moore
Frustration is growing for those who want a COVID-19 vaccine in Plumas County. During last night’s school board meeting, teachers sought to have the date for a return to in-person instruction predicated on their ability to have two doses of vaccine. Ultimately, the Plumas Unified School District board members voted to return elementary school students and teachers to the classroom Jan. 25, but delayed the high school return until March 1.
The first doses for education and childcare providers throughout the county (not just Plumas Unified) are slated for this Saturday, Jan. 16, but only a fraction of those eligible to receive the vaccine could be accommodated. According to Public Health, 60 individuals are scheduled to be vaccinated this Saturday, out of a total of 130 vaccines available for this sector in the immediate future. This makes administering two doses of the vaccine, with their associated waiting periods for efficacy, impossible for the Jan. 25 return date.
Those who tried to access the Public Health phone number to sign up for testing, found their patience tested. Teachers, who are supposed to be among the first in line, were zooming with their students when the phone lines opened up. By the time most got through, the slots for Jan. 16 as well as Jan. 23 were filled. Two additional dates also quickly filled.
Plumas Unified School District Superintendent Terry Oestreich discussed the issue with Public Health Director Andrew Woodruff and Public Health Officer Mark Satterfield this morning. “They don’t know when they will get additional vaccine,” that would be able to accommodate all in education who want to get the vaccine, Oestreich said. Now that she knows that there won’t be any more vaccine available, she is working internally to see if some PUSD staff would give their slot to a teacher who wasn’t able to schedule a vaccine. She is amassing a list of those who want a vaccine and trying to find out who might be willing to give up their opportunity. It’s not information that is readily available since individuals made their appointments through Public Health and privacy rules prevent that information from being shared. “So far I have eight people willing to give up their vaccination,” Oestreich said.
When asked if she had been contacted by teachers who won’t return to the classroom Jan. 25 if they haven’t been vaccinated, Oestreich said that she hadn’t, but was closely monitoring her email to be able to respond to teachers’ concerns.
Plumas News has received numerous inquiries from those in the 65-plus age range who want to know when it will be their turn, since the state of California updated its guidelines last week. It’s not going to be this month. According to Public Health, it’s awaiting more doses before it can schedule those individuals; ages 75-plus are next. Public Health Director Andrew Woodruff told the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 12 that each week his staff requests the maximum number of doses that it can, and then awaits the allocation.
Public Health spokeswoman Lori Beatley said today that an announcement will be made around noon tomorrow that addresses the 200 vaccines that will be made available for the 75-plus age group. Beatley said that Public Health is working with local health care providers to make the arrangements. When asked why Public Health is moving to this age group, rather than finish the education sector, Beatty said that the 75-plus age group is more likely to become seriously ill and require hospitalization if infected.
Plumas County Public Health provided a timeline of vaccination plans for the county on Jan. 10 (see below) and announced that it would try to update that information weekly. Individuals can visit Public Health’s page devoted to coronavirus that includes links to pertinent information including vaccination plans. Those with more questions can call the Covid-19 hotline at 530-283-6400 or email [email protected].
Beatley said the public has voiced frustration regarding a lack of information about vaccine eligibility and timelines. She said that Public Health is constrained by state guidelines and vaccine supply, but is committed to sharing as much information as possible.