BISBEE — The Cochise County COVID-19 emergency team has found a logo — Semper Gumby —which symbolizes to them the flexibility needed to deal with the ever changing landscape of the virus and vaccines.
County Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) coordinator Craig Janiszewski came up with the slogan and said, “Gumby has become my motivator and I now have this picture hanging above my desk so I can look up at it whenever a curveball is thrown our way.”
Alicia Thompson, Cochise Health and Social Services director, laughed and called him the team mascot.
And flexible is the right word to describe what the team does each week as a few thousand vaccine doses come in from the state and they figure out how to disburse them throughout the county without wasting a single dose.
Last week was a massive campaign to get the shots into arms as 7,400 doses, twice the amount normally provided as the bad weather prevented any from making it to the state due to the weather two weeks ago. Over just two days, clinics at the Copper Queen Hospital in Bisbee and at Buena High School in Sierra Vista accounted for over 1,700 of those doses, said Thompson.
This week the county will get 5,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine, two thousand more than usual. On Thursday, the county received 1,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which requires only one shot and does not have to be kept at the extreme cold temperature like the Moderna vaccine, she added.
There is no shortage of waiting arms as Gov. Doug Ducey just opened up the vaccine to those 55 and up.
In the weekly Friday COVID–19 update work session with the Board of Supervisors, University of Arizona intern Mark Wager provided Ann English, Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby with an overview of a study he performed to determine which people were the most at risk in the county, how the virus spread across the county, which symptoms were experienced and identified hot spots.
His study went from the initial first cases last March through November 30, so it did not show the huge surge of case which occurred over Thanksgiving.
The top three hotspots were Douglas, 1,992 cases, Sierra Vista, 738, and Willcox, 451. Bisbee was fourth with 159, then Benson, 141, and Herford, 119. The lowest area was Winchester Mountains with just one case, according to his report.
Janiszewski reported the total positive cases in the county was at 11,270, but there is a decline in new cases. On March 2, only three cases were reported. There have been 267 deaths attributed to the virus.
As for those who suffer the most severe infections, 56 percent of those over 55 were hospitalized and 85 percent of deaths were those over 65, he said.
Due to those statistics, the county has gone ahead with vaccinating people 55 and over, Thompson said.
Currently, the team is working on establishing an effort to reach homebound people who may not be able to make it in to one of the points of distribution to get the vaccine, said Thompson. It is a matter of not having enough people as they are busy handling the clinics at the various sites.
“Right now, those people who can vaccinate are busy with the clinic sites,” said Thompson. “We will have to map out the locations of the homebound to be sure the doses are delivered within a six-hour window.”
The county is also looking for people with medical experience to volunteer at the vaccine sites to help move people through the vaccine clinics efficiently and quickly, said Tammy Jo Wilkins, Emergency Preparedness Specialist. She put out a request for volunteers and received 29 responses. Those who volunteer will get the first vaccine dose.
Thompson emphasized the need for people to get tested if they began suffering any of the symptoms such as fevers, severe headaches, trouble breathing and coughs.
“If you’ve been exposed or have symptoms, get tested,” Thompson added. “You also should continue wearing a mask even if you are fully vaccinated.”
Washing hands frequently, maintaining a six foot distance, avoiding crowded indoor places and staying home when you feel sick are still appropriate measures to take to prevent contracting or spreading the virus.
English suggested creating some sort of “swag” for children and youth to have to remind them of the importance of maintain precautions.
With schools now returning to full time, in person learning as ordered by the governor, she thought it would be a good idea to come up with messaging for the children.
The team agreed to work on it. Maybe Gumby masks, Thompson suggested.