Jessica Cejnar / Wednesday, Jan. 13 @ 4:56 p.m.

Del Norte Receives Freezers Needed To Store Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine; Rehwaldt Says Seniors, Especially Those Over 75, Next In Line To Get Shots

Though Del Norte County will be able to store Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine soon, its allotment will continue to come from Humboldt County, Dr. Warren Rehwaldt told supervisors Tuesday.

The county’s ultra-low temperature freezers, capable of storing the vaccine at the required negative 70 degrees Celsius, arrived Monday and will be set up this week, Rehwaldt said. Once it’s confirmed that the freezers are maintaining the required temperature, the county will be able to tell the state that it can accept direct shipments of the Pfizer shot.

“Our plan is to locate one at Open Door Community Health Center,” Del Norte County’s public health officer told supervisors. They’re going to be a high volume user so they’re going to want to store the vaccine for themselves. But it’s a repository for us to store vaccine and they have a backup generator. That’s really the key requirement — they have a backup generator that sustains them if the power goes out, which we all know that’s likely to happen.”

Rehwaldt’s presentation came right after supervisors unanimously approved the anonymous donation of two ultra-low temperature freezers to the Department of Health and Human Services. These freezers will be added to the first one DHHS purchased for $5,300 last month.

The doctor’s report on COVID-19 activity in Del Norte County also came before supervisors unanimously approved the “Healthy Communities Resolution,” which calls for more local control to safety measures enacted to manage the spread of the virus.
Rehwaldt wasn’t part of that discussion, but, he said Wednesday, the thought behind the resolution was promising.

“A lot of the smaller counties have felt pretty constrained by the standards, but they all rolled with that for a good portion of last year,” Rehwaldt told the Outpost. “I think the resolution is a good start, but I don’t know where it’s going to land.”

On Tuesday, three new COVID-19 cases were reported to the Public Health Branch, making for a total of 90 active in the community. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 826 community cases and 179 cases among the incarcerated population, according to the county’s COVID-19 Information Hub.

At Pelican Bay State Prison, six inmates are positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s COVID-19 tracker.

The number of new cases reported in Del Norte County recently seem indicative of a downward trend, especially since last month when 63 positive cases were identified in about four days. Rehwaldt said health officials aren’t sure if that really is the case, but the number of positive COVID-19 cases among prison inmates seems to be declining too, which is a positive sign.

“We’re not out of the woods yet as far as the New Years holiday even though we’re almost two weeks out,” he said. “If we go through the next week without much change, we’ll start to see if maybe we’re in the clear for the holidays.”

On Tuesday, Rehwaldt told supervisors that Del Norte County currently has about 600 doses left of both its Moderna and Pfizer vaccine allocations, both of which require two doses. The goal is to inoculate hospital workers and front line medical workers, including emergency medical technicians, as well as assisted living and skilled nursing home settings.

The next goal is to vaccinate Del Norte County’s senior population, especially those older than 75, which, Rehwaldt said, would take pressure off the healthcare system as well as provide protection.

The Public Health Branch asked medical offices to begin polling patients to create lists for its staff to work with, he said.

Though the average person who isn’t a senior will be asked to be patient, Rehwaldt said once pharmacies begin distributing the vaccine, they may have extra doses they need to use. However, most people will be asked to wait their turn, he said.

Rehwaldt said people will be notified about how to get vaccinated via the radio and the Public Health Branch’s website

“We really want to squeeze every dose out of every vial that we can,” he said. “We’re just asking people to be patient, work with their (healthcare) provider offices and figure out what their risk is.”


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