April 15, 2024

COVID-19 vaccine scarce in Union County

Syringes filled with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine wait to be used Wednesday at the vaccination site in DeKalb.

Union County moved into phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccinations, but the vaccines themselves have been scarce. Jo Anne Duckworth, Emergency Management Director, spoke to the Union County Board of Supervisors during its regular meeting Monday at the Union County Courthouse but she did not know how many vaccine doses were going to be available.

“It’s slow coming,” she said. “We’re not able to get it here because we simply don’t have the supply.”

Although the drug stores and pharmacies in larger counties such as Polk have access to the vaccine, in Union County they do not. Duckworth said Iowa and specifically Union County is allotted fewer doses.

“We’ve been shortchanged on that end because we’re 47 out of 50 states,” she said. “And then when it comes in from the state, Union County is a smaller county so the allocation is small.”

Greater Regional Health’s website confirmed that Union County received 100 doses of the vaccine for phase 1B Jan. 29. Another 200 doses are promised, but no date was given for their receipt.

Duckworth said, in addition to radio, newspaper and social media, the Alert Iowa system, which is used for emergency situations such as tornado warnings, will be used to inform the public of developments in the vaccine process for Union County. Alerts can come in the form of text messages or voice messages.

Those who wish to sign up for Alert Iowa should visit https://unioncountyiowa.org/departments/union-county-emergency-management. Those without internet access can call the emergency management office at 641-782-1622.

As of Monday, Union County had a 13% 14-day positivity rate and an 8% 7-day positivity rate with 1145 total cases, 1018 patients recovered and 27 deaths. The combined 14-day positivity rate for the schools in Union County is at 12.9%. Test Iowa had processed 2506 COVID-19 tests.

The positivity rate refers to the number of tests that are positive divided by the number of tests given in the last seven or ten days. In Iowa, school districts can apply for a waiver to move to online schooling if the percentage rate is above 15%. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said schools should stay closed if the positivity rate in a community is higher than 5%.

Treasurer new hires

The board approved a request by Union County Treasurer Kelly Busch to hire two universal clerks for her office. One position was open due to an employee leaving, the second was because the office has had an opening for years that has not been filled. Busch explained how the effects of COVID-19 caused her to decide to fill the position.

“If COVID has taught me anything, it’s that I have to have a backup for every item in my office,” she said.

She also said it is not fair to continue to ask current employees to make sacrifices such as not have a lunch break or not being able to take vacations in order to cover absences.

Busch received 53 applications and interviewed eight prospective employees. She said she chose the applicants to interview based on whether they followed the directions in the application process and their attention to detail such as spelling.

The two new employees will be cross trained on the various duties in the treasurer’s office, working with drivers’ licensing, taxes and motor vehicles.

Kayla Brown will begin working Feb. 16 and Christie Bristow will start Feb. 17. Both new hires will receive a salary of $35,000. They will not be titled as deputies at this time.

Busch said due to the timing of the new hires they will not automatically receive the raises figured into the budget for the next fiscal year. Instead those raises would be based on performance at the time.

A budget amendment of approximately $16,000 will be required for the second position because it was removed from the budget for this fiscal year. Busch said the supervisors assured her at the time, that if she needed to reinstate the position, they would approve the amendment.

In other county business:

• in a phone call, Skip Lowe of Bernie Lowe and Associates, informed the supervisors that the county’s health insurer, Health Partners, has announced a 0% raise in rates for the county for next year.

• a liquor license renewal was approved for Crestmoor Golf club.

The Union County Board of Supervisors meets weekly 9 a.m. Monday at the Union County Courthouse, 300 N. Pine St. The supervisors are still meeting in person at this time, but the public is encouraged to submit comments for public forum by mail, email or telephone to help limit the gathering to 10 participants.

The Union County Board of Supervisors meets weekly 9 a.m. Monday at the Union County Courthouse, 300 N. Pine St. The supervisors are still meeting in person at this time, but the public is encouraged to submit comments for public forum by mail, email or telephone to help limit the gathering to 10 participants.