Kenosha County health officer updates Health Board on COVID-19 response; vaccine clinics ‘going amazing’

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KENOSHA ⏤ Kenosha County Health Officer Jennifer Freiheit gave her latest local COVID-19 and vaccine clinics update to the Kenosha County Health Board Tuesday morning.

According to Freiheit, it won’t be long until the 65-plus age group reaches herd immunity through vaccination ⏤ a multi-faceted effort led by county employees and volunteers.

In fact, that sect of the population could reach immunity as soon as “within several weeks,” Freiheit said.

Clinics ‘going amazing’

Freiheit told the county Health Board Tuesday that the county’s clinics “have been going amazing.”

“We have now reached 62 percent of our 65-plus population,” Freiheit said. “I really think we will be able to reach herd immunity in the 65-plus population within several weeks, hopefully in the early part of April. So that will be really great.”

“And the new populations opened up on March 1: the education sector, the childcare sector, grocery store workers, manufacturing. … Lots of people have opened up.”

Expanding vaccination effort

With the increase in demand, the county has also increased supply with its massive COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the old Shopko building, 5300 52nd St.

“Moving to (Shopko), we went from 11 vaccinators at the Job Center, we’ll now have capacity for 25 vaccinators here. We went from four registration tables to 12 registration tables. So we need a lot more help. So we’re really pulling on a lot of county workers, a lot of volunteers through the Wisconsin Emergency Assistance Volunteer Registry.”

More consistent volunteers needed

The effort particularly needs vaccinators; people to take registration, which requires some training; and greeters.

“People to push wheelchairs,” Freiheit said. “People to do traffic control and guide people where to go and where to sit. That’s always an easy job. You can just pop in and be put in a post and smile and give good customer service.”

Residents ages 16 and up are welcome to sign up to volunteer using the Wisconsin Emergency Assistance Volunteer registry at https://weavrwi.org/.

However, Freiheit cautions those who sign up that the effort isn’t a short-term commitment.

“Because this is a massive operation. It’s not just a one week or a one-day thing,” she said. “It’s going to go on. So we are constantly looking for workforce to help us. Because we still have all of our other public health duties as well. 

“So our staff is trying to balance all of the other grants and services and programs alongside, ‘Let’s get our population vaccinated.’”

Mobile Strike Force team, vaccinating homebound residents 

While clinics are planned both east and west of Interstate 94, a Mobile Strike Force team will also be visiting Lakeside Towers, the Kenosha County Detention Center and other group facilities to vaccinate people. 

The group will also be traveling to take care of vaccinating the county’s homebound residents.

In fact, the county currently has a list of homebound citizens wanting to be vaccinated that residents can call and add themselves to. In order to do so, call the county’s COVID-19 hotline at 262-605-6799.

“An at-each-home kind of thing,” Freiheit added. “That will take longer.” 

“There’s also transportation that’s now available in Kenosha County. If anybody needs a ride to any vaccine clinic, not just ours, they can call the hotline (262-605-6799) and figure out transportation that way.” 

Comments on new CDC guidelines

Freiheit stated that the county is waiting to amend any of its COVID-19 precaution recommendations following new CDC guidelines recently released.

“The stance we’re still maintaining is that the guidelines from the CDC were really meant for, like, grandma and grandpa to be able to see their grandkids,” she explained. “It was meant for those small, interfamily kind of things. 

“With the CDC guidelines that just came out, the state is also reviewing that. And the state will put out a recommendation. We are going to wait for that state recommendation.”

However, the other component, Freiheit said, is the lack of research and science available at the moment concerning the changing COVID-19 landscape.

“There is a very delicate balance that the CDC is trying to manage in that there’s a benefit to getting vaccinated and people’s impatience on waiting for that research to come out and be made official,” Freiheit said. “So we’re still maintaining status quo. I will wait to see what the state takes from the CDC, and then we will make the best decision for Kenosha County.” 

“And we will make sure we put that information out there far and wide.”

Board member praises local clinics

According to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard, 29,358 residents, or 17.2% of the total county population, have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of Tuesday, 17,894 residents ⏤ 10.53% of the total population ⏤ have been fully vaccinated. Currently, 11,464 residents ⏤ 6.74% of the total population ⏤ are awaiting their second dose of the vaccine. 

The county’s goal is to vaccinate 127,500 county residents, or 75%, in order to reach herd immunity.

Health Board member Mark Modory told Freiheit that the county’s vaccine efforts have impressed him. In fact, he puts the county in the top “three or five” in the state in its vaccine response.

“Everything I’ve heard about the clinics by the county has been nothing but excellence and praise, and that it’s going well,” Modory said. “The lines are very short. It’s quick. And I just really have to give you guys kudos. I’ll probably be making a site visit over to Shopko soon and see what’s going on there.

“Just a lot of amazing comments about how well Kenosha County is doing. When I see on the news what counties aren’t able to do in Wisconsin, I think we are probably in the top three or five that are getting the job done.”

“It is a team effort with all of the county departments putting in effort to make this a go,” Freiheit responded. “So it’s an amazing collaboration.”


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