Missoula Health Department – We Can’t Start Phase 1 B Plus Yet
Despite the fact that the Montana DPHHS and Greg Gianforte plan to begin vaccinating those in Phase 1 B Plus begins on Monday, it may be several weeks before Missoula can join in.
Incident Commander Cindy Farr explains.
“We are actually not quite ready to begin that,” said Farr. “We are still vaccinating people that fall into the one B tier 1 category, which is people who are 70 and older and people who are Native American or persons of color. We do expect to be wrapping up that phase here in the next couple of weeks, as we are keeping track of the number of people that would actually be eligible for vaccination in that category and the number of people who have been vaccinated so far to date.”
Due to the large number still not vaccinated in the present tier, Farr said the health department is making plans to safely speed up the process.
“We are meeting in the next couple of days to try and figure out if we need to further break down the remaining 1 B folks into age categories, just to make it much more manageable,” she said. “If we do not break it down into eight categories for the next tier of 1 B, not including the I B Plus., that gives us about an additional 45,000 people that would qualify to be vaccinated.”
Farr said attempting to open up a very large population of those receiving the vaccine would cause many technical problems.
“As we learned when we opened up just the first tier and started opening up those appointments, that when we have that many people who are eligible to schedule a vaccination appointment, it has a tendency to crash all of our systems because everyone's trying to get on at the same time,” she said. “So what we're potentially going to be doing is maybe breaking that next tier down into different age groups, much as the way we did with the first one, but we'll have more detailed information on that by the end of the week.”
Farr also addressed the fact that some in Missoula County are starting to back off wearing masks and practicing social distancing due to the drop in COVID cases and deaths.
“We are still continuing to take complaints and do enforcement and educate business owners on how to gently remind people that they still need to follow the restrictions that are in place here in Missoula County,” she said. However, we're definitely seeing some changes in people's behavior. Human behavior is one of the most unpredictable things, but what we do know is that if we stop having prevention measures in place, we could potentially see another increase in cases.”
Governor Gianforte announced on Tuesday that this coming Monday will officially mark the introduction of Phase 1 B Plus for COVID vaccinations.