Guilt is a powerful thing, and it was a shame to see the local health department try to use it to discourage people under the age of 75 from getting COVID-19 vaccinations once they were signed up. Anyone under the age of 75 who were signed up for vaccinations received an email from the local health department Saturday requesting they reconsider getting the shot. Educators were among those who received the email. Teachers were surprised to receive the request to reconsider after being encouraged by the school system to sign up for their vaccinations as quickly as possible.
The email from the health department read, “At this time, due to an overwhelming demand and limited vaccine supply, we are asking those in the Phase 1B eligibility who are under the age of 75 to consider postponing vaccination and cancelling their appointment time … Your appointment time will be given to someone over the age of 75 years old from the waiting list. Once vaccine supply increases, additional clinics will be scheduled.”
In response, a message from Worcester County Public Schools Chief Operating and Academic Officer Annette Wallace was distributed to local principals to share with their teachers. It essentially said ignore the health department’s email. “There is an email circulating from the Health Department asking people to consider cancelling their appointment and giving it to someone 75 and older. Please reassure your teachers that they are eligible and if they have chosen to sign up please encourage them to keep their appointments. The Governor and state health officials deemed educators as people who should be vaccinated next. We want to honor those orders and protect our teachers so please do not encourage them to cancel,” Wallace wrote in an email forwarded to many teachers. “There is a steady stream of vaccine supply entering the county weekly, so those in 1B will continue to have access in coming weeks. We do not recommend cancelling scheduled appointments as there are vaccinations allocated for all the scheduled clinics. …”
It’s unknown if any teachers actually did give up their spots for others, but the union representing them, Worcester County Teachers Association, also advised teachers to take advantage of the opportunity to receive the vaccinations. At one time, teachers were not included in phase 1B and it was thought it would be spring before it was their turn.
“… As employees and students return to school, it is absolutely imperative that everyone diligently adheres to all safety protocols,” the letter from WCTA Executive Board Everette Evansky read. “Additionally, we encourage WCPS employees to take advantage of the vaccines offered through Worcester County Health Department. We remind everyone in school and the community to wear masks, maintain distance, wash your hands often, stay home when sick and see a doctor when experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.”
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to stay positive and patient about the vaccination situation. There is simply not enough supply currently to meet even a small percentage of the demand.
Clinics open and within minutes are full. For instance, after a random check of the website, I was able to sign my mom up for the phase 1C vaccination in Snow Hill Thursday morning. Within three minutes, as I tried to sign up my father-in-law, all slots were filled, and a waiting list was created. These predicaments have routinely heard for many across the country.
A nice new positive is the fact the health department is now encouraging people to sign up for the wait list because it means something now. In the past, the wait list was only for the specific clinic if there was a cancellation. A message on the health department’s Facebook page yesterday explained, “Once you are on our waiting list please keep an eye on your email, our staff will be reaching out as spots become available.”
This provides some hope for those who fall within the included phases but have been able to secure a spot. Most seniors are not tech savvy enough to check a website multiple times every day and sign up for the clinics as soon as they are posted. It’s especially frustrating because they see a clinic open initially but the signup process takes them too long, and they lose the opportunity.
It’s the third week of January and this was when the consequences of holiday get-togethers and travel were expected to bring a surge in coronavirus cases. There is good news and bad news on the front. According to the numbers, the good news is a post-holiday surge never directly materialized, but the flip side is the key metrics remain higher today than they have been since the spring.
For example, for Worcester County, the daily positivity percentage was 11.78% for Wednesday, Jan. 20. The metric has been hovering around between 11% and 12% for the last week after reaching a high of 16.2% on Jan. 3. According to the state’s dashboard, excluding this month, the daily positivity percentage was last above the 11% mark on May 26.
Worcester’s positivity percentage as well as the seven-day moving average case rate per 100,000 each remain well above the state average. As far as regional comparison, Worcester’s metrics are also higher than Wicomico and Somerset counties.