COVID-19 cases increase; health dept. pushes out vaccinations
Macon County Public Health began providing COVID-19 vaccinations to residents eligible under Phase 1B, Group 1 this week. This group includes individuals who are 75 years of age or older, regardless of health status.
Individuals who are eligible under this phase can call 828-349-2517 and select Option 2 to begin the registration process for the vaccine.
MCPH staff will request the individual’s name and email address. Each individual must have their own email address rather than a household or shared address. MCPH staff will upload the name and email address into the COVID Vaccine Management System (CVMS), which is the state system. CVMS will send an email to the address provided requesting the individual complete their registration and create a password. This email will come from the Vaccine Management System (email@example.com.) Once the individual completes their registration, their eligibility will be confirmed and they will be directed to contact the health department to schedule their appointment by calling 828-349-2517 and selecting Option 2.
“Currently the state is working on the implementation of a weblink for CVMS for individuals to register without having to contact the health department,” said health department spokesperson Tammy Keezer. “We are also working on a protocol for individuals who do not have access to the internet, or email.”
With the addition of the vaccination schedule and COVID testing, the health department’s phone system has been overwhelmed.
On Tuesday, McGaha said the health department received more than 500 live calls and an additional 300 voicemails related to COVID testing and vaccination in a 24 hour period.
“At the present time, our phone system is being overwhelmed with individuals calling for both COVID-19 testing and vaccination,” said Macon County Health Director Kathy McGaha. “We apologize for the difficulty you may be experiencing with our phone system. Please bear with us as we work as quickly as we can to find a resolution. Macon County IT is working with Frontier to resolve the system capacity in hopes of having the issues resolved today.”
MCPH has received 600 vaccines and continues to receive weekly shipments from the state. As of Jan. 12, the health department has given 162 vaccinations.
MCPH is currently scheduling vaccinations on Wednesday and Friday. Appointments are scheduled every 15 minutes and they have scheduled as many as 100 vaccinations per day. Vaccinations are conducted through a drive-thru clinic at the health department’s 1830 Lakeside Drive location in Franklin.
“We are planning to add additional vaccination times beginning next week,” said Keezer. “When we start administering second doses we will be scheduling 200 vaccinations per day.”
The current vaccination schedule is posted on the health department’s web site (maconnc.org) under the COVID-19/Coronavirus tab.
“Macon County Public Health is also actively looking for ways to expand current vaccine capacity,” said Keezer. “All considerations are being weighed to continue to offer an exceptional level of care and dedication to our community. We ask that the community continue to be patient with us as we work through these hurdles and continue to provide the best service possible in this challenging time.”
COVID cases increase
Macon County continues to see an increase in COVID cases. As of 4 p.m., Jan. 11 the county has 2102 positive cases, with 634 of these cases being deemed active. This was an increase of 327 cases since 4 p.m., Monday, Jan. 4.
The health department provides COVID-19 testing from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday and Thursday. Starting Jan. 18 those hours will be extended to 4 p.m. Appointments are required and may be made by calling 828-349-2517, Option 1 to be screened and scheduled for testing. Currently, MCPH is scheduling upwards of 80 appointments per day for testing. While the health department is not collecting fees for testing, they will collect insurance information and are billing insurance.
The turnaround time for testing varies due to the volume statewide but Keezer said currently they are receiving test results within 24-48 hours.
“Currently, the health department has an adequate supply of tests,” said Keezer. “MCPH is only conducting the PCR test, which must be sent to LabCrop.”
There are other providers in the area that have rapid testing; however, there is a fee charged.
McGaha said MCHD will no longer provide information regarding clusters due to exceptional community spread and a shortage of resources needed for contact tracing. The health department employs three nurses who have been performing contact tracing and case investigation. Staff is being redirected to testing and vaccination.
“We simply do not have the nursing and support staff to do the disease detective work required to identify where individuals contracted the virus,” said McGaha. “It takes a team of staff to do the work required to do that reporting and we simply do not have the capacity needed.
“Macon County is seeing a continued surge of COVID-19 positive individuals as a result of holiday gatherings. The surge is affecting the entire community, including businesses, churches, agencies, etc. We need the community to do everything they can to slow the surge of COVID-19 by wearing their mask, avoid in-person social gatherings, and when it is your turn, get vaccinated.”