Health officials discuss reentry anxiety, vaccination incentives and vaccine verification at town hall |

Health officials discuss reentry anxiety, vaccination incentives and vaccine verification at town hall

Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland works at her desk at the Medical Office Building in Frisco on Sept. 9, 2020. Wineland, along with other Summit County officials, hosted a town hall on Friday, May 7, about level green restrictions.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

At a town hall Friday, May 7, county officials discussed level green restrictions and made a few announcements, including a few incentive-based vaccine events and an app under development that could verify vaccine records.

The event kicked off with Public Health Director Amy Wineland discussing the county’s COVID-19 statistics, including an incidence rate of 64.6 cases per 100,000 residents, which remains steadily in level green metrics on the local dial.

She also discussed the county’s increasing vaccination rate. In addition to hosting pop-up neighborhood clinics and working with local partners to make the vaccine accessible, Wineland mentioned that the county is working with local organizations to ensure young adults ages 20-29 get vaccinated along with other specific segments of the population.

“We’re also partnering with the town of Dillon and Breckenridge, hopefully, for some concert events where we’ll also be giving vaccines. And then we’ll be at A-Basin on May 16 providing (Johnson & Johnson) up there, and A-Basin will be providing a free drink for anyone who gets the vaccine that day,” Wineland said. “So we’re looking at really creative ways to continue our efforts here in the community to increase that portion of our population that’s protected.”

Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence echoed Wineland, saying the county still has a lot of work to do to get 20-somethings vaccinated.

“Whatever you can do to encourage your employees to get vaccinated, we want to support that,” Lawrence said. “We’re grateful for you doing that, and it’s really our important next step. We have a lot of work to do on those 20- through 29-year-olds and getting them vaccinated. If you know a 20- to 29-year-old, offer to drive them to the vaccine place.”

Wineland noted that it’s expected the Food and Drug Administration will approve the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds as soon as next week. To get this newly eligible segment of the population vaccinated quickly, Wineland said the county would be hosting clinics after school.

In addition to vaccinations, Wineland discussed next steps beyond level green.

“At this point, we’re just at a wait and see,” Wineland said. “This is a huge step that we’re taking for our community. We want to see how it plays out. It’s a good time to do that during mud season.”

She also told the audience that the state is developing an app that could verify vaccination records. The county is not currently exploring options for a vaccine passport or asking businesses or event planners to verify vaccine records.

“We’re trained to avoid a situation where everyone needs to verify their vaccine records,” she said. “We know that on the black market, people can just purchase vaccine cards, and right now, there is not a really great system in place. The state is actually working on an app where vaccine records could be easily verified, but it’s not happening at this point.”

Wineland said the county could explore something like this in the future. As of now, she said the county will continue to conduct contact tracing and encourage residents to stay home if they have symptoms, get tested and get vaccinated.

As the county continues to reopen, Wineland noted that residents could be feeling what Assistant City Manager Sarah Vaine called “reentry anxiety” and that it’s important to “learn how to live with the virus.”

“It’s also really important to understand that this virus is going to be here,” Wineland said. “We need to learn to live with this virus. We know now how to take personal responsibility to protect ourselves.”

Wineland noted that the reopening process can be intimidating for many people.

“This is going to be a scary process,” she said about some people’s feelings about reopening. “It’s an exciting process that we’re at this level, but it can be anxiety-producing and scary to actually be putting ourselves into what we’ve been told is a vulnerable situation for the last 14 months. But trust that you have a vaccine on board, hopefully, and also you can always wear your mask if you feel like you need that protection for yourself.”

During the meeting, Wineland suggested that residents who are nervous, or business owners who have front-of-house staff who are worried about reopening, should attend Building Hope’s reentry anxiety conversation at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 13. According to the nonprofit’s website, the event will feature a presentation and discussion addressing anxiety related to reentering society and next steps of navigating a new normal.

To watch the town hall, visit the county’s Facebook page.

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