Teton covid vaccine

Risk level elevated to critical in community

More residents of Teton County are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine each week, reports Teton Valley Health CEO Keith Gnagey, even as the county sees a spike in cases.

As of Jan. 6, the majority of hospital employees had gotten their first dose, and on that Wednesday, 24 health care providers were given their second and final dose of the vaccine. By midday Monday, according to the state dashboard at coronavirus.idaho.gov, 189 people had been vaccinated in Teton County and 52 had been administered their second dose.

“We’re cranking through the first category,” Gnagey said. That category, determined by a state committee, includes front-line health workers, residents at long term care facilities, pharmacists, and emergency responders.

“We have the vaccine, and we have therapeutics for COVID at the hospital. We’re working with Corner Drugs, Broulim’s, Eastern Idaho Public Health—we have the right entities in place,” Gnagey said.

While it is receiving weekly shipments, Teton Valley Health doesn’t know how many doses it will get until the Friday before. Once the vaccine is in hand, the logistical challenge continues; each vial of Pfizer vaccine has six doses and each of Moderna’s has ten, and once a vial is opened there’s a six-hour window to administer shots, so patients need to be lined up and ready.

“Obviously we don’t want to waste a single dose,” Gnagey said. “Each one is precious.”

Corralling the people who are first up for vaccines hasn’t been difficult, but once the second group is due, the process will have more moving parts; in order to vaccinate pre-K through 12th grade teachers, which is expected to happen in February, TVH will work with the public school superintendent as well as administrators at the valley’s private schools, but other groups, such as grocery store workers and people 75 and older, will be responsible for identifying themselves.

The Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee met last Friday to make some recommendations for adjustments to the group rankings, including adding adults 65 and older to the group that will next receive the vaccine.

“This is a fluid situation,” Gnagey said. “We’re communicating up-to-date information as soon as we receive it.”

The case numbers have been climbing in the community again, possibly due to holiday gatherings. Daily new cases in Teton County have ranged from six to over 20 in the past week. On Jan. 8, EIPH moved the county back into the critical risk level after three consecutive days of an active case rate over 45 per 10,000 people. Last week Teton County lost a third resident to the virus.

Between Dec. 18 and Jan. 11, the Teton School District 401 reported five new positive cases among students and staff and 25 possible exposures. On Monday night, the school board voted to keep students learning in person and to continue managing exposure on a school-to-school basis.

Gnagey said that, as the vaccine is distributed to more and more people, he’s cautiously optimistic. “But just because there’s a vaccine now, people need to know, don’t stop doing all the good things you’re doing.”