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CLINTON — The Clinton County Public Health Department is preparing for administration of a COVID vaccine that Director Michele Cullen believes will be available next month.

“It looks like there will possibly be a release of some of the vaccine the week of Dec. 14,” Cullen told the Clinton City Council Tuesday.

Cullen was unsure how much of the vaccine the State of Iowa would receive.

Pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer has asked for emergency use authorization of the vaccine, Cullen said. “The FDA will meet the second week in December to review the research, review the trials, and then will make that decision.”

Biotechnology company Moderna is hoping to do the same this week but may delay to next week because of Thanksgiving, Cullen said.

“So we’re closely watching that, and monitoring that, and getting our plans ready for that.”

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will decide the target populations for the first vaccines, Cullen said. Initial plans call for health care workers and first line providers such as emergency medical technicians to receive vaccines in the first phase.

Cullen reported the county’s COVID numbers during a meeting of the Clinton City Council at the request of Clinton Mayor Scott Maddasion. “I went to a Board of Supervisors meeting a few weeks back, and she kinda gave a really nice update,” Maddasion said Tuesday.

Maddasion added Cullen to the council agenda so council members and the public could ask questions of the director, he said.

Clinton County’s new COVID cases dropped from more than 400 last week to 263 in the last five days, Cullen said. “So we’re hoping that maybe our numbers will start to flatten in the county.

“Today there were 215,570 positive cases in the State of Iowa. In Clinton County, we saw 3,090 positive cases, which 1,585 of those are active,” Cullen said.

Since the health department began recording COVID information in March, 38 Clinton County residents have died with COVID, Cullen said.

“One of the other statistics that we look at is our hospitalization rate,” Cullen said. Clinton County is part of Region 5 of the Iowa Preparedness Service Areas, which includes Jackson, Clinton, Scott, Muscatine, Cedar and 11 other counties.

In the Region, 368 people were hospitalized with COVID as of Tuesday, down from last week when the number was 371.

“About a week ago Monday was where we really saw the peak in our region and pretty much across the state,” Cullen said.

MercyOne hospital typically has 20-22 COVID patients, and Genesis about 77. “Last week at this time, those numbers were closer to 100 for Genesis, closer to 30 for Mercy,” Cullen said.

“So we have seen a little bit of decrease, or a little bit of maybe stabilization.

“All of the hospitals in the Region are in what they call their surge plans,” said Cullen. Genesis has converted its orthopedic unit into a COVID unit, which held 58 patients Tuesday.

Hospitals are postponing elective surgeries to free staff to deal with increased hospitalizations, Cullen said.

During the COVID peak in June and July, MercyOne averaged eight to nine COVID patients rather than the 20 it’s seeing now, Cullen said. Genesis hospitalized nearly 30 rather than the 77 reported Tuesday.

Long-term care facilities test residents weekly and report COVID numbers to public health officials. Westwing Place in DeWitt, Wheatland Manor in Wheatland and The Alverno in Clinton are in outbreak status, Cullen said.

Keeping children in school depends on the county’s COVID positivity rate, said Cullen. The 14-day rate was 28.2% last week and 25.6% Tuesday. “So we’re gradually starting to come down, so that’s another positive.”

Proclamations issued by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds this month require bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. Residents can report violations of the proclamation to the Department of Inspections and Appeals on the State of Iowa website in the COVID-19 Information section.

“That is what we are encouraging when we get calls in our office,” said Cullen. “We’re also taking some of those down and doing a little bit of follow-up ... with the Department of Inspections and Appeals.”

“We would ask all of you that if someone continues to ... violate the proclamation that you refer them to that avenue at this point,” Cullen told the City Council. “We don’t want to do that. We want to give people a chance to ... follow the proclamation.”

Cullen’s COVID report will become a regular part of Clinton City Council meetings.

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