Positive cases of COVID-19 in Taney County continue to be on a downward trend as vaccination efforts increase with new tiers opening up for residents.
Currently the Taney County Health Department has opened up its vaccination clinics to Phase 1A and Phase 1B all tiers, according to the Missouri COVID-19 dashboard.
“Critical infrastructure folks that are in Phase 1B tier three are now able to get vaccinated,” said Taney County Health Department Director Lisa Marshall. “That was opened up on March 15 and certainly opens up to a lot more folks so we are excited.”
According to the Missouri COVID-19 dashboard, Phase 2 should be opening up to eligible Missouri residents on March 29 and should be open to all Missourians on April 9.
“The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Missouri Governor’s Office determined the priority groups, because our vaccine supply comes to us from the State Health Department we have to follow those priority group guidelines,” said Marshall. “We worked through (Phase) 1A , which were our health care workers and we are down now to what is called (Phase) 1B Tier 3 which is who we are vaccinating as of Monday. That is our critical infrastructure workers: including our governments workers, elected officials, utilities, energy, water, transportation, teachers and agriculture workers. It encompasses quite a bit of folks. We have made some real efforts to get those folks in here to get vaccinated this week. Those who are in previous tiers that either changed their minds or weren’t able to make it previously, can also still come in.”
According to Marshall, residents should visit the Missouri vaccine website to determine what tier they are in, as those eligible sometimes change.
“The website details the priority groupings and the tiers and phases,” said Marshall. “It answers questions about who is eligible and when. It gives you information about the different types of the vaccines, their safety and effectiveness. The most important thing is on those tiers and those priority groups is that they get updated from time to time. The caregivers was one that was actually added after the fact so occasionally we will see where a group gets added to. Our big push is to be sure to stay informed and stay on top of that because we want people to know when they are eligible and sometimes they don’t. That website is a really good resource to see what is new, what is changed.”
The TCHD is working on getting as many residents vaccinated as possible before the Branson tourism kicks into full gear, according to Marshall.
“We really feel that the next tier is going to encompass a lot of people,” said Marshall. “We want to be sure to get as many of our residents vaccinated as soon as possible before we see our biggest tourism increases with the summer season hitting. We feel like we are in a race against time to get our workers and residents vaccinated. That way they are fully protected against COVID-19 that may be brought into the area.”
Over the last few months Taney County has seen a steady decrease in positive cases of COVID-19, according to Marshall.
“We saw our peak numbers in November and December around Thanksgiving,” said Marshall. “Our peak was December 1 when we saw 86 new cases in one day which was pretty significant for us. We have since seen our numbers are trending downward pretty steadily. We did see a couple little bumps after Christmas, after New Years, and after the Superbowl, but nothing that wasn’t unexpected. Now we are down to seeing three to eight new cases a day. We are seeing our numbers are holding pretty steady at that range. We have a team investigating those positive (cases). Most of our resources and efforts right now are going toward vaccinating our residents.”
According to Marshall, as of the morning of March 15, the TCHD had administered a total of 5,900 doses and 12% of Taney County’s population had been fully vaccinated with both doses.
“Those numbers rise as we see more people coming in to get vaccinated,” said Marshall. “Our health care partners are vaccinating, independent clinicians are vaccinating and we are seeing our pharmacies coming online here in Taney County too, which is exciting.”
Marshall encourages people to sign up to get vaccinated even if their tier hasn’t opened up yet. These people will be placed on the TCHD waitlist.
“As quickly as tiers open up and individuals are eligible at clinics, we invite them to come to the clinics,” said Marshall. “I know some of the other organizations and community partners have waitlists as well. We tell people to sign up everywhere, and that way whoever gets enough vaccine first when those tiers open can get you in.”
Residents of Taney County can sign up online at the TCHD website or they can call the health department to be added to the list, according to Marshall.
“We rely heavily on technology just because of the sheer number of people signing up,” said Marshall. “We utilize text messages and emails to get people scheduled. For folks who don’t have email, or internet or if they prefer a phone call we have that option available as well.”
TCHD staff are busy with these vaccination clinics and request that if someone calls to get an appointment for the vaccine that they leave a message.
“In our office we have our WIC team on site as well as our finance team but everybody else is here on site at the clinics so we tell folks to call and leave a message and we will call back as soon we can to schedule them,” said Marshall. “It may not be the same day, it may not be the next day but we do call everyone back as fast as we can. So we are asking people to leave one message and we will give them a call back as soon as we can.
“If you have left several messages you end up getting like five call backs. You only need to call once and we will get with you as soon as the clinic is over or we have time.”
The TCHD is working on plans to expand to be able to get back out into the community to help with outreach programs and to get more vaccines to residents, according to Marshall.
“At a certain point we are going to do some strike teams that will go out more into the communities, more community outreach,” said Marshall. “We are all kind of trying to work through and make plans for now. So that when the time comes when we need to go out more we will have plans in place to do that.”
Vaccines are administered free of charge to everyone eligible. The TCHD does take insurance information and those who have insurance will be charged an administration fee, according to Marshall.
“The administration fee helps offset the expense for our resources and supplies,” said Marshall. “But if people don’t have insurance, they are not turned away and we don’t ask for anything out of pocket. We didn’t own this many chairs or tables before this.
“ We also use a lot of sanitizer. These clinics are a little costly to put on, but we are happy to do it for the community.”
For more information on the vaccine and tiers visit https://covidvaccine.mo.gov/
To learn more about getting on the waitlist for the vaccine with the TCHD, visit taneycohealth.org/covid19-vaccine/ or call the TCHD Forsyth office at 417-546-4725 or the TCHD Branson office at 417-334-4544.