The past weeks have seen many new COVID-19 developments, some good and some surprising. As a new, more communicable variant has arrived in the states and Carver County, there are a lot of questions regarding reopening and vaccines. We at the Sun Patriot got in touch with Dr. Richard Scott, Carver County’s Director of Public Health, to help answer questions and concerns with all the changes, as well as recommendations moving forward.
“We’re finally in the vaccine administration phase,” said Scott. “There are a lot of concerns being raised about availability of the vaccine, but here in Carver County we’re responding in the best way we can with the vaccines given.”
Part of that response is communicating with hospitals are pharmacies in the county about their actions with the vaccines. Once able, the plan is to expand to smaller clinics as well, but in the current phase of vaccination, hospitals are the priority.
Currently, the plan is vaccinating priority 1a workers, which will hopefully be completed by February, according to Scott. That includes doctors and emergency medical workers, as well as staff and residents at long-term care facilities. Once finished, the next priority group will begin receiving their vaccines, and so on and so forth.
When it comes to the public eventually getting their vaccines, there are few plans for that. In partnership with Ridgeview, the county has purchased a trailer and repurposed it for use as a medical trailer. For now, Ridgeview Medical Center is utilizing that trailer to vaccinate their doctors and employees, but eventually that trailer will be used for public vaccinations and even travel to the community.
As far as cases go, Carver County has followed the trend of the state after plateauing and decreasing. Hospital beds are opening back up, according to Scott, and the previous pause seems to have helped reduce case load as a whole.
Of course the big concern now is the UK variant. The good news regarding the variant is it isn’t more harmful to those who catch it; it’s instead just better at spreading.
“It’s not any more virulent, it’s not going to cause a worse outcome for someone who contracts it, but we believe it is more communicable,” said Scott. “That of course translates to more getting COVID, and more people experiencing negative consequences.”
With the variant being so new, there are a few unknowns, especially with the recent reopening of bars, restaurants, and schools. Scott recommends that the public remains mindful during this time, and adheres to the advice we’ve received more than ever: wear a mask, keep a distance, wash hands completely and frequently, and quarantine when necessary.
So far, the variant is as affected by vaccines as the original COVID virus. Pfizer and Moderna are planning to study this further to make the confirmation, according to Scott. It’s important to note, though, when it comes to viruses and their vaccines, companies take variants into account, as it’s normal for virus to mutate.
As for the South African variant, there are no confirmed cases in Minnesota as of yet, health officials are keeping an eye on it. Vaccine companies are doing the same, and will change their vaccines as necessary to keep up with any changes.
One concern Scott has is misinformation regarding the vaccines themselves. Myths surrounding it are not uncommon. It’s important to note that those myths and theories are dispelled on Carver County’s website at https://www.co.carver.mn.us/departments/health-human-services/public-health/health-and-wellness/disease-prevention/covid-19-coronavirus/covid-19-vaccine. This webpage also answers frequently asked questions regarding the vaccines. County staff are also planning to keep communicating with the public through post cards, their website, their Facebook, and news sources to keep them apprised of any updates and information.
The hope is to start vaccinating the public in late spring, possibly early summer. This will all depend on distribution and manufacturing capacity for the vaccines available. Of course the community will be notified once this is possible, as well as procedures for how, when, and where to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Until then, Scott recommends to keep up what has become the norm as best as possible.