Yesterday Gilly got a text she wasn’t expecting at all: Come to the Fieldhouse Wednesday at 5:30 to get your first shot.
The county, the state, the Center for Disease Control — somebody — has decided it’s now okay for those 65 and older to start getting immunized against what we hope is all strains of covid-19. Technically, Gilly isn’t there yet, although she reaches 65 later this year, and her text told her she qualified, so late today she will become among the 33 or so million Americans who have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Thirty-three million is about 9 percent of the country, and on this week’s virtual town hall our public health director said that’s about the state of the State of Colorado as well. She said it’s a little difficult to quantify here in Gunnison County, where we are vaccinating part-time residents as well as full-time residents, but she thinks we’re at about 18 percent.
She also assured us, amid concerns of “vaccine tourism,” that 99 percent of the shots administered locally have been to people with a county address. This means over 3,000 people have received at least one dose (just over 4,000 doses total injected prior to this week’s clinics, with only two wasted and careful dispensing turning up 11 doses out of every Moderna 10-dose vial and sometimes up to seven from a five-dose Pfizer vial).
Of these 3,000 souls, about a third have been age 70 or older, which means there are an estimated 500 in this county age group who have yet to get a shot. This would not be for lack of trying on the county’s part. They push and pull and beg and plead with everyone in the county to fill out their vaccine interest form, which also gives you a place to say you are not interested, so that they can keep convincing the state to send doses this way.
The county has enlisted area libraries to assist people who lack the technological expertise, or just the technological equipment, to ensure everyone has the opportunity to sign up. But based on the continuation of pleading with people to sign up, the rush is not on.
You really have to — or ought to — feel for these folks at “incident command” at the county. This has been a relentless process for just about a year now, and you can only do so much without the cooperation of the people in the county, whether that be adhering to public safety guidelines or filling out vaccine interest forms.
In the meantime you have the state telling you what to do, directives that sometimes change by the day, and the CDC offering its input, which frequently conflicts with the state, as it does when discussing what order this country’s population ought to be vaccinated in.
Then there’s the goofy part, where no one wants anyone to get too far ahead of anyone else. A month ago, tiny Hinsdale County just south of us vaccinated everyone in whatever their top cohort was, and had 100 doses left over. The state was debating whether to take those doses back, and I don’t know what decision was reached. But don’t you think it would have been easier to say, “Good job, Hinsdale! Let’s get as many people as possible vaccinated as soon as possible”?
Especially as health officials keep trying to warn of the impending wave of much more contagious variants across the country and Gilly runs into situations like that over the weekend, when all she wanted to do was pick up some take-out food. The restaurant was seething, packed with unmasked customers who were occupying the entire restaurant, not less than 50 percent of the floor space as required. In the center was a table of college kids, more of whom kept pulling chairs up to join. Gilly settled for hovering on the sidewalk until the owner spotted her and brought her order out.
The county devoted a portion of its town hall and most of its business Zoom this week to changes to the state “covid dial,” which was modeled after Gunnison’s “Coronameter” but which has morphed in bureaucratic fashion to become something altogether different. Theoretically, these new changes, promised for weeks but only released late last week, allow the state to be more nimble (probably much in the fashion of the roll-out for the new changes) in sliding various counties along their color scheme.
But I doubt very much that Gunnison County — the residents, not incident command — is going to care what color we are, or what health officials try to mandate. Certainly the business members on this week’s Zoom didn’t care — everyone was more focused on the community testing that was going to be offered and suddenly has gone away with no more explanation than the county wants to be self-reliant, even if that means asymptomatic people can no longer get a free test.
There were a couple of people from Crested Butte taking exception to the Gunnison-centric focus of the planned community testing, which was supposed to be this week and next and now is only scheduled after spring break. Except that it’s Gunnison’s spring break, not Crested Butte’s, and no provision has been made for widespread testing following a week off for CB schools in February nor their spring break, which comes in April after the ski area closes.
None of that was addressed in the meeting, because the focus was supposed to be on the state’s metrics. Even if most of our restaurants got the welcome news that they could increase their capacity, it would only mean they move from lawless to lawful — it won’t change the fact that every table is already occupied and that large groups of non-family members hold court in the middle.
Every day I go someplace where people who are supposed to are not wearing masks, and I keep reading portents of doom about the coming wash of uber-contagious variants that may or may not respond to the vaccines. I go past the “vaccine count” at the Washington Post, which ticks up at a rate of about 1 million a day, putting President Biden on track for his “100 million in 100 days” pledge but well behind the doubling of that some members of his administration optimistically felt was achievable.
Here in Gunnion County, the public health director feels confident, even though she doesn’t know from week to week how many vials the state might send her, that Gilly’s group (1B, I think, and it includes schools, so that might mean my sister Tia could be up soon) should all receive their first shots within the next three weeks.
Then I don’t know if we have to wait for the rest of the state to catch up, or we can just keep moving, onto 1C that definitely includes postal workers like Lynn and may or may not include retail workers like the rest of us at Pat’s.
We’ll just have to wait for that magic day like Gilly had yesterday, when a text arrived out of the blue (a color we’re not in on either the Coronameter or the Covid Dial) bringing her hope, elation, a touch of guilt that she got the call when others didn’t . . . Go! we told her. Every step forward is a march toward victory in this slog of ten thousand steps.