Hardin County health care providers and nursing home residents will have the opportunity to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus this month when 600 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are scheduled to arrive one or two days after Christmas.
At Wednesday’s Hardin County Board of Supervisors meeting, County Emergency Management Coordinator Thomas Craighton gave a brief update on the county's vaccination plans.
Craighton said the county is not scheduled to receive the vaccine developed by Pfizer, but he said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expect to approve the Moderna vaccine for emergency authorization on Dec. 17.
Hardin County Public Health Coordinator Rocky Reents said the county will get the first vaccine shipment in next week.
"According to the CDC, our priority population for this first group is strictly health care providers who have direct patient contact, and then long term health care residents." Reents said.
During public comment, Hardin County resident Pauline Lloyd asked the supervisors if they "had plans to do anything in our county" to mitigate the spread of the virus. She directed her comment at board member BJ Hoffman, who has a nursing background.
"From the county's standpoint, according to Iowa Code, I don't have any delegated authority to make the doctors, CDC, Iowa Department of Public Health do anything additional," Hoffman said. "My recommendations are to follow the CDC guidelines, take care of yourself if you have underlying medial conditions, stay home if you can, and use the entities involved with getting groceries by curbside pickup and wear a mask."
Lloyd said she was concerned that with the Christmas and New Year's holidays approaching, there would be an uptick in cases. She referenced what she said was a spike in cases after Thanksgiving.
"Do you three have anything in mind or are we going to sit like bumps on a log and not do anything?" Lloyd said.
Reents said there are currently 350 active cases in the county, but that cases have continued to decrease since Thanksgiving. She said the spike was not what health officials had anticipated, but that Hardin County Public Health would continue to encourage people to do the right things to stay safe.
Hoffman said research indicates there's a 14-day incubation period for the disease.
"If my memory recalls, Thanksgiving was Nov. 26, so we are outside of that 14-day window. According to data, I don't believe there was a spike. It's open to interpretation if you believe there was a spike. With Christmas, again, wear a mask. If you don't feel well, protect yourself accordingly. When it's your turn for vaccine, please weight that option if you want to get that or not. I encourage it," Hoffman said. "It's not my position as county supervisor nor do I have delegated authority to cancel religious holidays. I'm not in the business of canceling people's religious freedom."
Board Chairman Lance Granzow said the topic has been brought up weekly during their public meetings and the county's position on the matter has been clear.
"I've listened to this every week and you've gotten the same answer every week. I'm going to be a bump on a log at this point. I'm tired of hearing it. You know the answer. We don't have the authority. I'm done," Granzow said.
HFH refinancing bonds
In other business, the supervisors granted their bond attorney with Ahlers & Cooney of Des Moines permission to work with Hansen Family Hospital's bond counsel - at the hospital's expense - to begin the process of refinancing the hospital's bonds.
By refinancing a portion of the bonds used to finance the construction of the 7-year-old facility, HFH could save an estimated $1 million.
"I wanted to bring this information to the board today and acknowledge and get permission to engage our bond attorney to start working with them," Hoffman said.
At that meeting, a member of UMB Bank, - the company that helped the hospital with financial aspects of the project - said current interest rates and analysis of HFH's debt show that a substantial amount of money could be saved with refinancing the bonds.
Since the original bonds were sold by Hardin County and the City of Iowa Falls, public hearings will be required to issue new bonds. That process could be complete by the middle of February.