By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Members of the Yukon COVID-19 Task Force have a unified message for the people of Yukon – make plans to get vaccinated if you haven’t already.
And stay vigilant against this devastating virus by continuing to follow safety protocols.
Mayor Shelli Selby’s task force team met Jan. 6 in Yukon.
“Even though the vaccine is here and (more) vaccine is coming, we have to wear masks and we have to social distance,” Selby said. “We have to wash our hands. We can’t let our guard down.”
Yukon’s mayor hopes COVID-19 case numbers will improve and many more people will be vaccinated when the task force meets again in two weeks.
“We are seeing hope,” Selby said. “There’s hope that life is going to return. I hope it doesn’t return how it was before. I hope it returns better and we appreciate each other more.”
There were more than 1,300 active cases in Canadian County this week with nearly 600 in Yukon, according to state health department data.
Oklahoma first responders, health care workers, long-term care residents, and people age 65 and over are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Several sites have started offering vaccine clinics.
Although the City of Yukon doesn’t have a citywide mask mandate, Yukon city employees must wear masks when dealing with the public, and face coverings are required inside all City of Yukon buildings.
Maggie Jackson, community engagement and planning director at the Canadian County Health Department, updated the COVID-19 Task Force on the CCHD’s vaccine roll-out. Oklahoma is now in phase two of vaccinations.
“We are excited to continue to get lots of vaccine out,” Jackson said. “The demand is so high, and we’ve had lots of requests for people to get on the list.”
Anyone interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine should call the CCHD (354-4872 or 262-0042) or visit the Oklahoma State Health Department website at http://www.coronavirus.health.ok.gov.
Vaccine doses were administered to about 1,200 health care workers and front-line responders on Dec. 31 at the Yukon Community Center, 2200 S Holly.
Mayor Selby, Police Chief John Corn and Fire Chief Shawn Vogt noted how smoothly the New Year’s Eve event went.
The CCHD had another Canadian County vaccine clinic on Friday, Jan. 8 at Redlands Community College in El Reno. This was open to 1,200 healthcare workers, first responders and residents age 65 and above.
People have started to register for another vaccine event next Friday, Jan. 15 at Redlands. Identification is required.
Volunteers are needed to help CCHD with staffing at these large vaccine clinics.
“We could some extra hands,” Jackson said. “They have to go through the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps. We’re trying to utilize nursing students as well.”
Some healthcare workers and first responders have started receiving second doses. People should take second doses after three weeks with the Pfizer vaccine and after four weeks with the Moderna vaccine.
People are asked to get their second dose at the same place they received the first dose.
Even those who have tested positive for COVID-19 are advised to get the vaccine because people can become re-infected, Jackson noted.
The vaccine offers a “more durable immunity than just the antibodies from becoming ill,” she said.
“Right now, the general advice is that three months after you’ve had COVID-19, you have some kind of immunity and would not have to quarantine.”
FOR THE NURSING HOMES
Through a federal program, CVS and Walgreens are providing the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing homes and assisted living centers.
Yukon’s largest senior retirement community is enrolled in the program with a vaccine clinic set Saturday, Jan. 16.
“Most every facility now has a clinic scheduled in the next two weeks,” said Don Blose, CEO of Spanish Cove Life-Care Retirement Village.
A “majority” of Spanish Cove residents are eager to take the vaccine, Blose added.
“We want 80% of our population to have the vaccine,” he said. “Between 70% and 80% is where your herd immunity starts to kick in.”
Blose, a former state immunization director, said it takes 14 days for someone to receive the “full benefit” of the COVID-19 vaccine after receiving the second dose. So, people can still test positive for two weeks – even after that second dose.
Spanish Cove on Jan. 6 had no COVID infections among its 500-member population, including residents and staff.
The Cove hopes to reopen its dining room and offer some activities about six weeks after the Jan. 16th vaccine clinic.
“Our residents are anxious to congregate again,” Blose said. “We want to get a little bit back towards normal. But ‘normal’ is not going to come for quite a while.”
Although the Pfizer vaccine that Cove residents will receive is 95% effective, safety protocols will remain in place on campus.
“We’re counting on the vaccine, but you still have to be smart about this,” Blose said.
“We have a lot of sick people in this town. It’s sad that we’ve lost a lot more than we needed to lose or should have lost.”
As of Jan. 7, there had been 54 COVID-19 deaths reported in Canadian County with 19 of them in Yukon.
On a positive note, COVID restrictions have prompted many Spanish Cove residents to embrace technology to communicate with others.
“It is just so cool to see an older person’s imagination and creativity be reawakened,” Blose said. “A lot of them are becoming ‘techies’ now. Some of them were afraid to turn on a computer before.”
Teresa Gray, president of INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital, said healthcare workers were offered the COVID-19 vaccine twice in December.
Some 255 “first” doses were administered Dec. 17 and 94 more (including EMS first responders) were vaccinated Dec. 22 at the Yukon hospital. The booster doses were scheduled for Jan. 7 and Jan. 12.
INTEGRIS hopes to work with the health department to become a community vaccine site in the future.
Gray expects to see a peak in COVID-19 cases in the next two weeks due to Christmas and other holiday gatherings.
There were 23 COVID-19 patients Jan. 6 at the Yukon hospital, with 301 positive patients in the INTEGRIS Health system – 87% of them in the metro area.
ICVH is at 102% capacity, including six patients holding in the emergency room waiting for ICU (intensive care unit) and IMC (intermediate care unit) beds. Currently, there are no medical beds available.
Meanwhile, five hospital employees were out Jan. 6 due to COVID – down from 12 last week.