On Wednesday, Sierra Wave and other local news media had a presser (Zoom call) with the Northern Inyo Healthcare District which began vaccinating people over the age of 65 and older last Thursday, Jan. 14, for COVID-19 per new state guidelines.
A special phone line had been set up for vaccine appointments. It was quickly overwhelmed with incoming calls. In fact, there were over 10,000 attempted calls on the first day, followed by just under 10,000 the following day, Friday. The following Monday and Tuesday call volumes dropped as they anticipated down to about 1,000 a day, most in the morning hours. Residents can also register for an appointment at the Inyo County COVID-19 website.
A smiling Dr. Stacey Brown, director of the Rural Health Clinic said, “The feedback so far is awesome.” He continued on, saying “We’re sitting at about 225 scheduled appointments until we hear from the county or the state on how many they’re going to allocate to us this coming week.”
As of Wednesday morning, Brown said, “We have 1,100 people on the waitlist.” The hospital hopes to scale up the number of vaccinations from 60 to 90 a day, or maybe even 120 a day, but it’s all dependent on vaccine supply.”
“We’re getting a lot of really great feedback, they’re (the public) so happy,” says Brown.
One woman shared with Dr. Brown that she had not been out of her house since February of last year, and only then to come “get our vaccine, which ‘made my day,’” said Brown. “I mean, that was like, ‘Okay,’ this is why we do this! It was motivating for the entire medical staff to hear.”
Brown hopes the “Christmas crush (surge) is waning, and the curve seems to be flattening.” But there is a new, much more contagious variant out with greater “transmissivity” that in recent days some health and medical authorities fear may create yet another surge. Addressing that concern, Brown said that “All we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope the (lower numbers) trend continues.” It should be noted that reports say that all the current vaccines still work on providing an immune response on all the variants so far.
NIHD staff want to remind everyone that, as more and more people get vaccinated, having the vaccine isn’t a license to burn their masks. Even being vaccinated,” says Brown, “You can still transmit the virus.”
When Sierra Wave asked Dr. Brown if the flu has been a factor this year as feared, he said, “There has been very little, if any, this year,” and that “most likely is because social distancing, washing your hands, and wearing a mask ‘works’ to prevent infection from both the flu and Covid-19.”
Brown went on to say, “We have had two cases confirmed all season and we’re burning through flu tests. It would be such a much more complicated situation if you have to deal with COVID and the flu together.”
NIHD’s Chief of Nursing, Alison Partridge, says that “the reprieve from the surge (for the medical staff) has been welcomed and we’re definitely seeing lower numbers at the hospital, which is fantastic.”
The good thing about having these pressers with NIHD is that local news media can keep our listeners and readers up to date with the latest information. Since the pandemic began ten months ago, we have come to accept that Covid-19 is here for a while longer, but there is “light at the end of the tunnel.”
The biggest difference we’re seeing now on our Zoom Presser calls is that there are more smiles on the faces and optimistic enthusiasm heard in the voices of the medical staff at NIH, along with a lot “thumbs up,” and admittedly a few “fingers crossed” All of which is a good thing. And don’t all of us, the public, the news media, our local health providers and the hospital workers, need that optimism about now?