Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Humboldt County supervisors have described an atmosphere of anger, fear and panic as vaccination rollout lurches due to supply issues.
Uncertainty and confusion over which groups of county residents and workers are eligible for vaccinations and when was discussed as the county’s Board of Supervisors fielded a January 26 update from Public Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman.
Hoffman told supervisors that vaccine supply is “variable and very limited,” with 1,000 to 2,000 new first vaccine doses received per week and “despite the promises that we would get more, we will not be getting more for the foreseeable future”
The vaccines are taken in two doses several weeks apart and Hoffman added that with second doses included, total shipments amount to 3,000 to 4,000 doses per week.
The county has prepared for expanding public vaccination clinics and distribution to vaccinators but Hoffman said, “We’ve built the ship as big as we can and now we don’t have enough to fill it.”
Supervisors say they’re getting many contacts from people who are confused and afraid.
“There is so much anxiety and almost panic to try and find where everyone can get the vaccinations,” said Supervisor Mike Wilson. “It’s definitely a pressure cooker.”
He added that the recent public reactions follow “a huge push” of contacts to supervisors and health officials after the state announced that people ages 65 and older were teed up for vaccination. But the county has only gotten enough supply for people 75 years and older.
Vaccination of that age group continues along with emergency first responders. Appointments are also being made for teachers.
Discussion became somewhat argumentative when Hoffman was repeatedly asked about specifics on when teachers will actually be vaccinated. Sensing frustration, Supervisor Steve Madrone appealed for calm.
“Yes, we’re all anxious, the anxiety is over the top,” he said. “There’s been a lot of changing information from the state and the feds, etcetera, but this is not the time, folks, to panic and to start getting really angry at each other and making massive phone calls, emails and texts, and demanding this and demanding that.”
Imploring patience, Madrone added that “we all need to take a deep breath and realize that help is coming.”
He predicted a time “when we look back in two or three months and go, ‘Wow, we made it, we’re there, things are getting better.’”
But resuming in-school learning is a community priority and Supervisor Rex Bohn said he’s gotten many calls and emails asking for specifics about when teachers will be vaccinated.
“Can we tell the teachers anything?” he asked Hoffman.
Hoffman said vaccination appointments for them are being launched but the timing of shots depends on supply. “We have to plan these things week to week,” he continued.
“If you’re a teacher, as Supervisor Madrone said, let’s practice some patience right now, we’re not forgetting about you and not once has our priority changed for teachers,” Hoffman said.
Supervisor Virginia Bass asked that supervisors be informed “so at least we can start allaying some of the fears that people have.”
The vaccination panic coincides with the county’s continuing COVID-19 case surge, with 262 new cases confirmed last week and five more deaths. Hospitalizations jumped, with 15 more occurring last week.
The county’s total number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths as of Jan. 29 was 2,754, 101 and 30 respectively.
Hoffman told supervisors the surge trend continues to “stay strong,” with “many outbreaks across all sectors” fueled by indoor gatherings, including those at workplaces and churches.
Schools haven’t seen outbreaks yet but Hoffman said infections have “affected school operations and many classrooms have to go into quarantine.”