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News / Health / Clark County Health

Clark County to get FEMA team to manage rollout of vaccine

By Jack Heffernan, Columbian county government and small cities reporter, and
Mark Bowder, Columbian Metro Editor
Published: January 20, 2021, 7:09pm

Clark County announced Wednesday that federal officials will deploy an incident management team to Southwest Washington to help plan and manage community vaccination sites. The announcement came soon after an additional 90 new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths were reported.

The Type 1 incident management team — designated for the most complex incidents — will serve Clark, Cowlitz and Skamania counties, working to establish multiple community vaccination sites in the region. Those will include some mobile sites that can allow for vaccination at high-risk workplaces.

Other community partners, such as health care providers and schools, will be involved in the process as well, the county said in a press release Wednesday.

“We are thrilled to have Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 3 in Southwest Washington,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director. “Through a coordinated effort between the incident management team, the three counties and community partners, we will be able to more quickly and efficiently get people in Southwest Washington vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Details about the vaccination sites, including locations and opening dates, are not yet available, the county said. Updates are promised in the coming days.

New case counts easing

News about the stepped-up vaccination plans came as Clark County approaches the milestone of 16,000 COVID-19 cases to date. The total on Wednesday was 15,961. There has been an average of about 119 new daily cases since Friday, continuing a downward trend from previous weeks.

The number of deaths from COVID-19 were unchanged Wednesday at 164. Four deaths were reported Tuesday, according to Public Health data.

The number of active cases and hospitalizations also fell. There were 770 active cases on Wednesday, down from 794 on Tuesday, and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped to 57 on Wednesday, down from 65 the day before. The number of people hospitalized awaiting test results held steady at eight, according to Public Health data.

People included in Phase 1a or Phase 1b Tier 1 (B1) of the state’s vaccination plan are now eligible to be vaccinated. People who are eligible and need help accessing COVID-19 vaccine can submit a request form on the Public Health website.

All requests must be submitted through the webform. Public Health is connecting eligible people to local health care facilities with COVID-19 vaccine but is not administering COVID-19 vaccine at its Center for Community Health offices.

Public Health began accepting requests from people eligible in Phase 1b Tier 1 on Tuesday morning. In the first 24 hours, it received more than 11,000 request forms.

Given the large number of requests and the continued limited vaccine supply, it may take several weeks before those who submitted request forms are contacted by a facility. Public Health officials say they will not be able to provide individual updates on the status of requests.

People who used the state’s Phase Finder tool to determine whether they are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination must still submit a request form on the Public Health website if they need help accessing the vaccine. The Phase Finder tool does not connect eligible people to facilities with vaccine and it does not send information to Clark County Public Health.

Additional information about COVID-19 vaccine eligibility and accessing vaccine can be found at the Clark County Public Health website.

Federal help arrives

Clark, Cowlitz and Skamania counties submitted the request, with support from the state, for federal help with vaccination sites two weeks ago, according to the news release. The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the request over the weekend, agreeing to send an incident management team to Southwest Washington.

The team — Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 3 — arrived in Clark County on Tuesday, including federal, local and state representatives with experience in handling complex incidents.

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The county on Wednesday expressed the need for collaboration, funding and vaccine supply from the state Department of Health.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Monday that, starting next week, the state will establish four mass vaccination sites. One of the sites mentioned was the Clark County Fairgrounds, which is owned by the county.

The announcement came as a surprise to county officials. Clark County Public Health is working to gather additional information, according to the news release.

“It just came as a complete surprise,” Clark County Councilor Gary Medvigy said. “They’ve gotten, kind of, used to just dictating.”

Medvigy added, though, that the announcement was also a “good surprise.”

“I don’t think we’ll end up competing with the state’s efforts,” Medvigy said. “I’m very hopeful that what the government sets up will be separate and apart and a multiplier of what we are able to set up locally.”

Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Columbian Metro Editor