With COVID-19 cases slowing in Del Norte County, the emphasis is on vaccinations, Public Health Authority Dr. Warren Rehwaldt told the Crescent City City Council on Monday.
“We’re continuing to vaccinate,” Rehwaldt said. “We’re planning on moving the mass vaccination site to the fairgrounds, and we’re planning on having clinics there on a twice-a-week basis. We’re gonna try and configure that in a way that makes sense.”
Rehwaldt said the vaccination clinics at the airport were successful, but he said it required large numbers of volunteers. He hopes the fairgrounds can be set up in a way that relieves the volunteers of some of the burden.
Councilman Isaiah Wright asked Rehwaldt when the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which requires just one shot, will be available.
“We have some in stock at the moment,” the doctor answered. “We’re using it mostly for select people where we think we’re going to have a tough time reaching them a second time. There’s a fair number of folks we might be able to persuade to get one shot, but maybe not two. We’re trying to keep it on reserve for them at the moment.”
Rehwaldt said he is not sure when more of the vaccine will arrive, but he said likely not before April.
One big boost that helped in Del Norte County has little to do with the government. Instead, Rite Aid has begun offering the vaccine.
“Rite Aid pharmacy has been using the Pfizer vaccine and doing a lot of vaccinations,” Rehwaldt said. “They’re probably the largest vaccinator in our community. We’re very happy with that.”
Rehwaldt said the county and Rite Aid are following the tier recommendations that come from the state. On Monday, that expanded to include anyone ages 16 to 64 with a major underlying condition such as heart disease, diabetes and more.
“They’re eligible now, as of today, if they have an underlying condition,” Rehwaldt said. “It’s expanding, and I’m sure you’ve heard the White House wants to expand to anyone as of May 1.”
Rehwaldt said every person who gets vaccinated is a step toward defeating COVID, but he warned the virus has not gone away. On Monday, the county confirmed 13 new cases.
“Some of it’s related to groups of people,” Rehwaldt said. “A lot of our numbers are contacts of known cases.”
Rehwaldt said one problem in Del Norte County and elsewhere is people are starting to relax, probably a little soon.
“I actually think it’s a little bit of fatigue with COVID, and I think people are being a little more open of how they’re conducting themselves,” Rehwaldt said. “My biggest concern is our cases may put us back in the Purple Tier. Our numbers have been rising. We have to keep an eye on that.”
Rehwaldt said people may be tired of hearing it, but the best thing they can do is wear a mask, social distance and wash hands regularly.
“Mostly, stay at home if you’re sick,” he said.
On top of that, Rehwaldt said when you are eligible, get vaccinated.
“Being vaccinated is the key, and that’s what we’re encouraging everybody to do, get vaccinated if you can,” Rehwaldt said. “Some of the advantages of being vaccinated are becoming clear now.”