The Marshall County Board of Health held its first meeting of the year Tuesday, and mitigating COVID-19 will once again remain a major focus of the Department of Public Health.
The county’s director of public health, Pat Thompson, spoke about the department’s preparedness and response to the virus, as it has now been nearly two years since the first wave led to widespread shutdowns across the United States.
Thompson said that delivering, recording and storing COVID vaccines still takes the lion’s share of her duties these days.
“As we go through this pandemic and may become endemic over time, storage will still be important,” she said. “My job is to order the vaccines and look at what the county needs for the next two weeks.”
She noted that predicting the level of need for vaccines can be intimidating as the numbers begin to rise. The department has Pfizer vaccines for adults and teens along with Moderna, Johnson and Johnson doses, and vaccine doses are kept in an ultra-cold storage refrigerator at the Marshall County office.
Thompson has been meeting weekly with a team she has referred to as vaccine partners, including representatives from UnityPoint, McFarland, Hy-Vee and JBS. Also participating in the meetings were Marshall County Emergency Management Director Kim Elder and Board Chair Dr. Ken Lyons.
Together, they discussed vaccine availability among the various entities responsible for administering vaccines. This way, Thompson knows where you need the potions.
Elder said long-term care facilities are starting to run out of COVID testing kits. It delivered more kits to area facilities last week to help keep up with the increase in testing and disease. Thompson said she also hears many people seeking testing and mentoring kits.
“I get a lot of phone calls. She said they are trying to figure out ‘How do I take care of myself and others?'”
In other work, Elder has reported on the Emergency Management Agency. There was a discussion of providing EMS education to high school students, she said during an interagency conference call on Monday. This is an initiative Elder supported as a way to engage young people as paid EMS volunteers or employees.
“I have been lobbying for schools to consider recognizing the EMT program for their students who take continuing education through college,” she said. “It would be really helpful for us to have these classes that students can take.”
Elder said there are two problems that cause EMT shortages: a lack of funding and a lack of volunteers.
“Smaller units and agencies can’t find anyone to hire on staff, just like everyone else. If they find someone to hire, they can’t keep it,” she said. “We see that here at the hospital. They’re going to push bigger, better, and better. It is expensive for someone to volunteer to pay for their classes.”