Talbot County’s acting health officer gave an update Tuesday afternoon on the county’s COVID-19 statistics and vaccination progress and announced the county’s new call center for vaccine information.
Anyone with questions about the vaccination program in Talbot County may call 410-819-5641. The call center will be staffed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with extended hours until 7 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays.
“This is a call center that we’ve set up purely for vaccination questions,” Dr. Maria Maguire, Talbot’s acting health officer, said in a call with business leaders and the public.
The health department is being assisted with the call center by the Avalon Foundation and Easton Utilities.
“We have never operated a call center on this scale before,” Maguire said, and the center already has been getting a large number of calls. She recommended that callers try again later if they get a busy signal or hold message.
In addition to the call center, the health department’s website has forms eligible residents interested in getting a vaccine may fill out.
Emergency personnel or licensed medical professionals who work in Talbot County and have not yet scheduled a vaccination appointment, may use this healthcare form to sign up now.
The county currently is in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan, which includes residents 75 and older. Residents in that age group may express interest in getting a vaccine by clicking here: Interest form for residents 75 and older.
The next phase will be 1C, which will include those who are 65-74 years old. Residents in that age group may express interest in getting a vaccine by clicking here: Interest form for residents 65-74.
These interest forms are for planning purposes and help the health department gauge interest in the community. Only one submission is necessary. You will not receive an appointment after completing the survey. The health department will reach out when vaccine is available.
Additional interest forms will be added in the future for residents who will be eligible for vaccinations in other phases, such as childcare and essential workers. Go to https://talbotcovid19.org or talbothealth.org for the latest information.
For most of the past week, Talbot County has been the “most vaccinated” in the state, with more than 10% of the county’s population having received “at least the first dose of a COVID vaccine” as of Tuesday, Maguire said.
One reason for that is the large number of healthcare workers who live or work in the county, she noted. Those workers were included in the initial phase of vaccination (1A).
About 30% of the county’s population is 65 and older, Maguire said, and she estimated about 40% of Talbot’s residents are in Phase 1 of the state’s vaccination plan.
With a large percentage of residents who are 65 and older, Talbot also will administer a lot of vaccines during Phases 1B, which includes those 75 and older, and 1C, which will include those 65-74.
Although the state has said counties are allowed to move to Phase 1C, Talbot and most other jurisdictions have been unable to do so due to the number of vaccine doses provided by the state.
About 5,000 Talbot residents who are 75 and older and 4,000 who are 65-74 have pre-registered to get the COVID vaccine, Maguire said.
Due to those high numbers and the low number of vaccines provided, Talbot may need to remain in Phase 1B for longer than other counties, as health officials work to vaccinate the residents who are at highest risk first.
“Our main hiccups are just that we simply do not have enough vaccine to meet demand. And unfortunately, we don’t have much control over the amount of vaccine we do receive,” Maguire said.
Talbot had been getting about 600 doses a week, but the county’s allocation was cut to 300 doses this week, curtailing plans to move the county to Phase 1C.
“(W)e need to make sure that the very high demand is met before we proceed to … Phase 1C,” she said.
With fewer doses, the county currently is prioritizing residents who are 85 and older.
“(T)hey are the highest risk among the 75 years and above … in terms of … mortality and hospitalization,” Maguire said. “And so that’s what we want to get to first and we will be proceeding through. So anyone who has already registered will get priority in terms of scheduling before we move on to the next phase.”
“Our goal is always to … administer vaccines as quickly as possible. We receive them on a Monday or Tuesday, and … more than 99% of them are gone by the end of the week.”
Maguire also outlined some positive news in terms of the county’s COVID-19 statistics.
“So our numbers are starting to go down a little bit from the holiday surge,” she said, noting the county’s case rate (the rate of cases per 100,000 population) had dropped significantly from its peak on Jan. 11.
Talbot’s positivity rate also has dropped from about 10% at the beginning of January to about 6% now.
“(T)hat’s really good because our goal is to get that number, that positivity rate, below 5%,” Maguire said.
Although there are positive trends, she urged residents to continue to follow safety precautions and not become complacent.
“(T)he only way we can get these numbers back down to where we want them is if people … continue to wear their masks and avoid the crowds and gatherings.”
Dr. Maguire had given the Talbot County Council, sitting as the county’s Board of Health, an update during the council’s Jan. 12 meeting. The video of that presentation is available below: