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Health director gives update on county’s vaccination plan

The Beaufort County Health Department is progressively shifting more of its resources to focus on its COVID-19 vaccination efforts, according to Health Director Jim Madson.

Madson said the department is cutting back slightly on its COVID-19 testing hours and streamlining its contact tracing process in order to allow its employees more time to facilitate the county’s phased vaccination process.

Beaufort County is following the state’s vaccine distribution plan. Right now the county is in Phase 1a of that plan. Health care workers involved with the treatment of COVID-19 are currently eligible to be vaccinated, as well as long-term care facility workers and residents.

Approximately 2,000 Beaufort County residents are currently eligible to receive their first of two COVID-19 vaccine doses. Madson said 506 vaccines had been given as of Monday. That number doesn’t yet include long-term care facilities. CVS is the vaccine provider for those facilities, and vaccinations are currently underway at those locations.

The next step in the vaccination process is Phase 1b, which is divided into three subgroups. Madson expects that phase to begin on Monday, Jan. 11.  The first subgroup will include everyone ages 75 and older; the second subgroup will cover more health care workers and frontline essential workers ages 50 and older; and the third subgroup in Phase 1b will cover health care workers and frontline essential workers younger than 50.

The health care workers listed in those three subgroups include but are not limited to behavioral health providers, environmental service staff, pharmacy technicians and emergency preparedness workers. The frontline essential workers include first responders that haven’t been covered already, educators, manufacturing plant employees, detention center staff members, food production and agriculture workers, postal service workers, public transportation workers and grocery store workers.

Madson said approximately 6,000 individuals are covered in Phase 1b.

Phase 2 will be divided into four subgroups. The first group is anyone ages 65 to 74; the second group is anyone ages 16-64 with a high-risk medical condition; the third group consists of incarcerated and homeless individuals; and the fourth group consists of essential workers who haven’t already been vaccinated.

Madson doesn’t have an exact timeline for Phase 2, but he estimates that it will begin around the middle of February.

Phase 3 will include students in grades K-12 who are still in need of a vaccination. In Phase 4, the vaccine process will open to the rest of the general public.

At the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night, Madson urged patience with the vaccine process. He said he is planning on having approximately 100 vaccines administered per day.

UPDATED TESTING HOURS

COVID-19 testing is now available at the following locations and times: Beaufort County Health Department, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.; Fresh Anointing Church in Aurora, Mondays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; The Wilkinson Center in Belhaven, Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Spring Garden Missionary Baptist Church in Washington, Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.