COVID-19 ACTIVITY IN WHITE COUNTY
• 2,339 total confirmed cases during pandmic
• 7-day moving average of cases
• 29.7 case average as of Jan. 12
• Up from 26.7 on Jan. 5 and 19 on Dec. 31
• 263 cases reported through Jan. 12
• December was highest count yet at 688
• 40 deaths attributed to COVID-19
Source: Georgia Department of Public Health Jan. 12 status report
Many COVID-19 vaccine providers continue to be flooded with appointment requests, with some health departments’ phone and online registration systems being overwhelmed.
Effects were being seen immediately as Georgia officially expanded its initial vaccine rollout Monday to include residents age 65 and older, law enforcement and fire personnel. State officials have said more shipments are forthcoming as supplies allow.
Phone lines and websites for all health departments in the 13-county District 2 Public Health region were overwhelmed by requests, spokesman Dave Palmer said Monday.
“We ask that everyone be patient. We understand that everyone is anxious, but everyone who wants the vaccine will be given the opportunity to get vaccinated,” he said. “Currently, there is a limited supply of vaccine available at a small number of providers. As more vaccine is shipped to additional enrolled providers, access to appointments will improve over the days and weeks ahead.”
The White County News received reports from some residents who said they were unable to leave messages with the health department or sign up online through the District 2 Public Health registration portal at phdistrict2.org. The District 2 appointment line is 1-888-426-5073 or 770-531-5692.
Palmer noted the health district is adding staff for vaccine efforts. Along with planning with other groups, District 2 is actively recruiting licensed nurses in temporary, part-time positions to work with current health department staff.
Applicants are directed to complete an online application at dph.georgia.gov by clicking the “About DPH” link, followed by “General Information” and “Careers.” Choose “Open Jobs” and enter “covid” in the search box and select the position and county of interest.
Plans are also being made for clinics to vaccinate larger groups at one time, Palmer said. Details will be announced once enough staff and vaccines are available, and appointments will be required.
“We continue to place orders for more vaccine as we administer the vaccine on hand,” Palmer said. “This will keep our vaccine supply line going.”
The White County Health Department was already inundated with calls earlier this month not long after the state’s announcement on expanded eligibility. The earliest available appointments are now being booked for early March, said Nurse Manager Cindy King.
She said eight volunteers from the White County Community Emergency Response Team had been assigned to assist with triage and clerical tasks to aid the health department’s two full-time nurses and two retiree nurses working alternating schedules.
King said residents seeking appointments should continue trying to call 706-865-2191, then selecting prompt 4. Callers should leave their name and phone number for staff to follow up. Residents are asked to not continue calling after leaving their first message.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s weekly vaccine order report posted Monday, so far 600 doses of Moderna vaccine had been allocated for the White County Health Department, with about 500 more doses split among three other local providers.
Cleveland Drug Company received its initial shipment Monday. Pharmacist Ray Black said he had received “a good bit” of calls already, and plans to requests more vaccine weekly while taking appointments at 706-219-2626.
The White County office of MedLink Georgia was to begin vaccination Wednesday of those currently eligible, said Practice Manager Carolina Munoz. Patients can be added to a wait list by calling 706-521-3113. They will be called back when an appointment is available.
Ingles Pharmacy in Cleveland was also listed on the DPH allocation report.
As of Wednesday at noon, no appointment times were shown available on the Northeast Georgia Physicians Group’s online registration for a series vaccine clinics in the region (nghs.com/vaccine-registration). Page visitors were instructed to continue checking the link for changes as NGPG did not have a waiting list.
Habersham Medical Center announced on social media Monday morning that all of its vaccine appointments had been filled, advising those currently eligible to receive the vaccine to call 1-855-990-HELP (4357), then selecting option 2, to be added to its vaccine waiting list. The next morning, however, came the announcement it was no longer adding names to its current wait list.
“As soon as we receive additional shipments of the vaccine, we will resume scheduling appointments starting with those who are on our current wait list,” a post stated.
With infection rates around the highest they’ve been during the pandemic for the state and county, officials urge residents to continue taking precautions against contracting and spreading the coronavirus.
That includes frequent handwashing, social distancing, wearing a face covering, avoiding unnecessary travel and following continued guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.