The Boone County Commissioners renewed a state of emergency resolution, a move that allows for expedited decisions during the surging COVID-19 pandemic, and the county has been earmarked as a COVID-19 vaccine distribution site for nearby counties.
Boone County Health Dept. Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Tom Ryan said the commissioners and the health department had two goals in mind when renewing the resolution: He said they wanted to signal the pandemic and the recent surge of COVID-19 cases were to be taken seriously and that the county had actionable plans in response.
“We are in a very serious situation at this point in time, and the transmission rate is increasing,” Boone County Commissioner Jeff Wolfe said during the commissioners’ Nov. 16 meeting. “As we go into this, there are a lot of key issues we’re working on. The health department has partnered with Witham on trying to get a testing clinic set up, and we are partnering with Witham on future vaccination sites, and I think this is a time when we are entering this emergency order with actions in place.”
Ryan said the county, when the commissioners first declared a state of emergency, was able to establish the Boone County 4-H Fairgrounds as a spillover site in the event of untenable COVID-19 case surges in Witham Health Services, the county’s primary hospital. The site has not been used for this purpose, as of press time. Now, he said, Witham has partnered with the BCHD to secure the location to provide easier access to testing and access for COVID-19 vaccinations once they are available.
“Once that shifts from testing to vaccinations for the hospital (happens), it’s almost turn-key,” Ryan said. “There are a few things we’d have to set up, but nothing too crazy.”
As of press time, Witham officials said the hospital did not have immediate plans to open COVID-19 testing to the general public. To be tested at Witham, currently, residents must have a doctor’s note recommending they be tested. The only testing site in Boone County open to the general public is the CVS in Zionsville at 1466 West Oak St. The Indiana State Dept. of Health also has various testing sites open to the public in surrounding counties, including Hamilton and Marion counties. To schedule a test through one of the state-sponsored sites, visit coronavirus.in.gov.
“We are evaluating it on a daily basis,” Dr. Ray Ingham, president and CEO of Witham, said. “We’re afraid that if we open it up 100 percent we will make two errors. The first error is that we won’t be able to accommodate all of those that want it, and the second error is that there won’t be anyone there to close the loop.”
Once a vaccine approves emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, Ryan said shipments could be distributed starting 24 hours later to hospitals and other sites. COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, and Moderna, a biotechnology company, are expected to be the first to be considered for authorization. Both companies have stated they would ask for authorization for their vaccines as soon as some time this month.
When a vaccine is authorized and distributed, Witham will help vaccinate health care workers in Montgomery and Clinton counties, Ryan said. Witham has the equipment and capacity to store the vaccines at low enough temperatures, he said.
“Once the vaccine is ready to be shipped, it will be shipped to Indianapolis,” Ryan said. “From Indianapolis, it will be shipped to the four corners of the state and central Indiana. From those initial delivery hubs, it will go out to the hospitals that have signed on to receive the vaccine. Witham is one of those hospitals.”