COVID vaccine will be offered to Phase 1B next week

By 
Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Beaverhead County’s COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be offered to residents in the next eligible group starting Jan. 29.

Beaverhead County Public Health announced the move to the next phase of vaccination – Phase 1B – on its Facebook page. The department will hold clinics for this group Jan. 29, Feb. 5 and Feb. 12 from noon to 5 p.m. at the University of Montana Western arena. There will be slots available for 200 people in the first clinic, which will also provide second-doses to Phase 1A recipients of the vaccine. The number of appointments at later clinics could be increased depending on the traffic flow during the first one.

Phase 1B includes residents age 70 and older, American Indians and other people of color with an elevated risk for COVID-19 complications, people 18 and older with high-risk medical conditions that include cancer, COPD and some heart conditions. Others will be offered the vaccine on a case-by-case basis after consultation with their medical provider. Public health is working on setting up a dedicated phone line to schedule appointments.

Barrett Hospital and the Southwest Montana Community Health Center will also provide vaccinations to their Phase 1B patients when they receive their supply, the Facebook post added.

Barrett Hospital and Healthcare officials warned of COVID-19 vaccine scams this week, noting anyone claiming they can get a person early access to the vaccine is a fraud. In a press release, Barrett Hospital noted scammers are using telemarketing calls, text messages, social media and door-to-door visits attempting to steal money.

The vaccine is free, though there will be a charge to administer it, usually paid for by a person’s insurance. Residents cannot pay to get their name put on a list for the vaccine, or for early access to the vaccine. No health care or insurance companies will ask for a Social Security number, credit card or bank account for information to sign up for a vaccine, the press release stated.

“Beware of providers offering other products, treatments or medicines to prevent the virus. Check with your health care provider before paying for or receiving any COVID-19-related treatment,” the press release stated. “If you get a call, text, email – or even someone knocking on your door – claiming they can get you early access to the vaccine, STOP. That’s a scam. Don’t pay for a promise of a vaccine or share personal information.”

The only currently-approved vaccines for emergency use are the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine or its deployment, visit https://dphhs. mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/coronavirusvaccine .

The speed of vaccine distribution to Phase 1A recipients prompted Gov. Greg Gianforte to change the state’s pandemic restrictions, rescinding the capacity and hours limitations on businesses, according to a press release. The new directive, effective Jan. 15, still requires public gatherings to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines with a focus on social distancing, disinfection and sanitation, and masking when that physical distancing cannot be assured.

The statewide mask mandate remains in effect for indoor spaces open to the public for those age 5 and older and for organized activities outdoors where social distancing is not possible or not observed.

Masks need not be worn when consuming food and drink in an establishment that offers them for sale; when needing to communicate with a hearingimpaired individual; when giving a speech or engaging in an artistic, cultural, musical or theatrical performance if the audience is separated by at least six feet; when participating in strenuous physical activity; when needing to remove the covering for identification purposes; when receiving medical diagnosis or treatment; or when the individual has a medical condition that precludes the safe wearing of a face covering.

Local restrictions are allowed to be more restrictive than the governor’s order.

The changes go into effect as the county reported a week of fewer new positive cases, with the majority of new cases appearing in those in their 40s and 50s, followed by those in their teens. Beaverhead County added 19 new cases over the week, with 24 active cases and 835 total cases as of Tuesday. Barrett Hospital was at 39 percent capacity as of Monday, with one hospital bed occupied by a COVID patient, and 11 total beds available.

Beaverhead County High School announced a staff member and a student tested positive for the virus on Jan. 12. As of Jan. 13, the school had counted 26 total positive cases among students and three cases among staff, according to a report provided to the school board.

School District #10 tallied 11 total students at the middle school, 13 students at the elementary, and 10 total staff as testing positive for COVID, as of Jan. 10.

The state of Montana’s school report listed Lima School as having one total staff member test positive for the virus; Wisdom School tallied one positive case as well, though did not differentiate whether it was a student or a staff member. Montana Youth Challenge Academy had one staff member test positive since the start of the school year, according to the state’s weekly schools report.

UMW has reported 105 total COVID-positive cases to the state since the start of the school year in August, according to the state schools report. The data does not separate out staff and student cases.

The state of Montana added 2,787 new cases and 26 deaths over the past week. As of Tuesday, the state counted 89,864 total cases and 1,093 deaths. There have been over 23.6 million COVID cases and more than 394,400 deaths nationwide as of Sunday, according to the CDC.