In anticipation of COVID-19 vaccines becoming more widely available, local pharmacy manager Leslie Johnson began filling out the necessary paperwork to be able to administer doses at Clark’s Pharmacy during the first week of September.
“It has been a monster of a project,” Johnson said Monday. “We are ready to receive vaccine whenever the state is ready to enlist us.”
However, several months after completing the arduous paperwork, Johnson still does not know exactly when Clark’s Pharmacy will start administering vaccine doses, despite being ready to do so now.
“I have a conference call with the state every week, and every week something is different,” Johnson said. “At this point, we’ve been told that pharmacies generally will not be involved in the vaccine process until Phase 2.”
Phase 2, in accordance with state guidelines, prioritizes people ages 60-64, in addition to individuals ages 16-59 with one high-risk condition. The state’s vaccine distribution plan lists Phase 2 as occurring this spring.
“We are just waiting to be told ‘go’ at this point,” Johnson said. “We want to get everybody vaccinated as fast as we can. We want to get back to normal life too.”
According to Rhonda Remy, a King Soopers corporate affairs spokesperson, City Market Pharmacy in Aspen received its first 100 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 10, which it quickly administered to eligible individuals.
“It is good news. Unfortunately, I don’t know when they’ll be getting more,” Remy said. “We order every week for every store.”
Eligible individuals can sign up to receive vaccination at City Market locations through the King Soopers website.
In one month’s time, Pitkin County’s COVID-19 metrics have dropped from “severe” to concerning levels, which although far from normal, has allowed for the loosening of some public health restrictions.
On Jan. 22, Pitkin County’s 14-day incidence rate continued in red-level metrics at 1,706 cases per 100,000 people. One month later, the county’s seven-day incidence rate — accounting for the new metric implemented by the state’s COVID-19 Dial 2.0 — had dropped to 101 cases per 100,000 people, just one case above blue-level metrics. For over a week, Pitkin County’s percent-positivity rate has also tracked in level blue, and as of Monday, all of Aspen Valley Hospital’s ICU beds were available.
In order to move from level yellow to level blue on Colorado’s COVID-19 dial, Pitkin County would need to sustain level-blue metrics for at least seven consecutive days.
Although similar to level yellow, blue restrictions push back last call until midnight. Currently, restaurants in Pitkin County must conduct a last call for alcohol at 11 p.m.
The Pitkin County Board of Health will meet Thursday to discuss the county’s latest COVID-19 metrics in addition to the merits of its self-imposed traveler affidavit.
According to Pitkin County COVID-19 Response and Recovery Public Information Officer Tracy Trulove, the county will administer 1,170 first-round doses of vaccine this Thursday and 242 second-round doses on Friday at the Benedict Music Tent parking lot in Aspen.
Deputy County Manager Phylis Mattice said Pitkin County was “comfortable” administering 1,200 doses in a single day, but that too many more had presented challenges.
“Our system was stretched when we went to 1,380 [doses], and because of that we have revised our registration system to be faster and move individuals through at a greater pace,” Mattice said in an email. “It was registration that we feel was the bottleneck and caused backups the week before last. We are instituting those registration improvements with our clinic for 1,170 doses for this Thursday’s clinic, and that will give us a good idea if we can target 1,500 [doses] a day.”
On Dec. 17, frontline doctors and nurses at Aspen Valley Hospital became the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine in Pitkin County. Since then, 4,981 total doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been administered in the county.