By Kendall McGee | November 6, 2020 at 3:36 PM EST – Updated November 6 at 6:17 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – New numbers from the state show at least half of all COVID-19-related deaths in North Carolina are from nursing or care homes.
Health leaders say coronavirus case numbers are beginning to stabilize some, but people in long-term care facilities are one population they’re keeping a careful eye on.
Workers in New Hanover County’s public health department checked in with congregate care facilities every day in the early weeks of the pandemic, but those calls are not as frequent anymore. Eight months later, if administration at the nursing or care facility need supplies or manpower, they know they can call the health department for help.
This week, community health workers are calling those facilities for a different reason.
“Over this week, we were calling each facility to ask what their plans are for COVID vaccine to see how we can help them, so we made calls to each one of those facilities individually just to have a conversation and see what the plans were and see how we can help them,” said New Hanover County Assistant Health Director Carla Turner.
While there is no definitive word on when a vaccine might arrive, the health department is working to make sure facilities have a plan ready so when it is available, they can first protect the most vulnerable.
Hospital staff, long-term care staff and those residents will be included in the first phase of vaccine distribution. There’s already programs through the federal government with CVS and Walgreen’s for nursing homes to apply for that will provide them with on-site vaccination clinics when the time comes.
Health leaders are starting now because finding and enrolling facilities, learning how many doses are needed, and coordinating mobile clinics where the vaccine will be administered require extensive planning.
“The CDC is passing guidance down from the state who is in passing it down to local health departments. That is the top of our list of priorities right now, being ready when that does finally roll out to be able to do it we need to do to protect the community,” said Turner.
The county’s plan is not ready to be released quite yet, but the CDC’s Vaccination Program Interim Playbook is publicly posted online here.
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