By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
JASPER — The Dubois County Health Department is working to vaccinate as many eligible residents as possible, Administrative Director Shawn Werner said.
The department has been administering around 900 COVID-19 vaccines a week, or 180 a day. In addition, starting this week, second doses of the vaccine are available for those who already received the first dose weeks ago.
There will be second-dose clinics at Jasper Middle School on Feb. 20 from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. and Feb. 27 from 8 a.m. to noon.
In addition to clinics at JMS, people age 65 and older can schedule a vaccine appointment at the health department anytime. The department has a clinic every day from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Werner said the department is operating as efficiently as possible with the increased volume of appointments. When the vaccine opened up to people 65 and over, the most recent age group to qualify, people flooded the department and the state website briefly crashed.
“We had people everywhere, like the parking lots, all the way down the roads, every nook and cranny,” he said. “My staff was a little worried after that … but we’re in a groove now.”
The county health department added eight additional staff members, essentially doubling its staff, so there are about 20 people there at one time every day.
New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that virus transmission can be reduced by 96.5% by wearing tight-fitting surgical masks or both a cloth and surgical mask at the same time, especially with new strains in the U.S. that may be more contagious.
Werner said wearing two masks could be helpful but not to worry about it too much so long as whatever masks that are being used sufficiently block water droplets from escaping. N95 masks are still typically reserved for health care workers.
“The new strains don’t really change our guidance,” Werner said. “Really, it’s just something that the hospitals and the labs are watching.”
Cases in Dubois County seem to be plateauing after dropping a bit, Werner said. The county is still at an orange advisory level, so even if the weekly metric score becomes yellow, the county will continue to follow orange guidelines for at least two weeks.
Werner said he suspects cases are lower than previous months because there haven’t been any major holidays like in November or December where large groups were gathering, in addition to more people being vaccinated every day and those who have recovered from COVID-19 building immunity for a few months.
The county health department is still operating normally even with vaccine appointments, Werner said. He said the department is encouraging parents to sign up for regular immunizations for children.