The Henry County Health Department is putting together the capability for mobile vaccination clinics in preparation for when a vaccine is available for COVID-19.
During Tuesday’s Henry County Board of Health meeting, health commissioner Mark Adams said the commissioners have dedicated a portion of its CARES Act funding to the health department to help with coronavirus prevention and response.
Those funds are being utilized to purchase a diesel truck, as well as a trailer, so the health department can hold mobile vaccine clinics once it is approved for COVID-19. Two new refrigerators will be purchased to hold the vaccines at the health department, including alert systems that will send notifications if the temperature drops or increases too much, plus containers that will keep the vaccines at the needed temperatures when they are being transported.
“They’re coolers that will, for about 150 hours, keep vaccines ... without electricity,” Adams explained.
Adams said the mobility could allow for easier access for the vaccines throughout the county.
“We pop up, show up with our equipment, we get people in and out as fast as possible,” Adams said. “I’ve seen it work like that, it works very well instead of having people come to a central location. By taking it out there, you could hit each of your townships.”
Adams added the truck could also be utilized to pull the emergency command trailer that’s stored in Malinta if it’s needed, adding he’s also spoken with the city’s fire department about allowing them to have access to the truck if they need the trailer as well.
“We’ve got equipment that we can all share and use, and it all goes back to working together, and we all do work together very well,” he said.
Those CARES Act funds will also be used for the purchase of 25 new laptops, in addition to the seven previously purchased by the health department. The internet infrastructure will be rebuilt at the health department, as well as replacing networking switches and the email server.
“Our (infrastructure) was put in here in 2004 when they renovated the building,” he said, adding the current computers are 11 years old.
An emergency generator will also be purchased for the health department so it can have independent power to continue operations in case of an outage, and thermometers are also being purchased.
All told, Adams said the items purchased for the health department with the CARES funds from the county will total approximately $130,000, with purchase orders already put in for approximately $97,000 of that amount.
“Each of the equipment that staff members have said, ‘This is what we need to be efficient and effective in coronavirus response,’ the county is putting that commitment forward,” Adams said. “... They trust their health department to be able to do that, so that’s a huge positive.
“They are on top of it,” Adams said of the county commissioners and Henry County Emergency Management Agency Director Tracy Busch. “I didn’t ask (for it), but they asked, ‘What do we need to do for public health?’
“I couldn’t be more thankful,” he added.
Henry County Commissioner Glenn Miller said the commissioners wanted to help the health department with its response.
“We’re happy to be able to do it,” Miller said, adding the county, health department and EMA have been working cooperatively throughout this process. “... We work together, we cooperate and we cooperate at all levels throughout the county government and that makes us often very successful.”
Miller said the county is also utilizing its CARES funds for a small business grant program, plus items such as thermometers that can be distributed.
In addition to the CARES Act funding, the county is also eligible for public assistance funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for its COVID-19 response. Miller said the FEMA funds require a 25% local match, but they recently learned the state will be covering that 25% match, so the county doesn’t need to use a portion of its CARES Act money to fund that match.
Miller said they are utilizing the public assistance funds to purchase technology for different departments to improve the capacity for virtual meetings and working remotely.
Miller added the FEMA funds are more limited in what they can be used for but there is not a set amount on the funds.
“We have multiple pots of money, and we’re trying to optimize the use of that money,” Miller said. “Buy only what’s needed, don’t buy excess, and make smart purchases.
“Overall, I think the county is pretty good shape,” he added.
Miller said the state still has yet to distribute all of the CARES funds, and it’s local officials’ hopes that those funds will be released to counties as well. If they receive additional funds, Miller said the county would continue to look at grant programs, possibly expanding to helping individuals with mortgage payments if needed.