MONTEREY COUNTY — A shift in treatment guidelines within Monterey County has made it so individuals age 65 and older can register for Covid-19 vaccinations as long as they meet certain criteria, and the county has ramped up plans to get vaccinations out to the populace with a new phone system.
Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno announced Feb. 9 that the prior restriction of only residents age 75 or older has shifted to 65 or older, as long as their line of work puts them at risk in the following industry sectors: education and child care, emergency services, food and agriculture.
To check for eligibility or to register for vaccination, go to mcvaccinate.com.
During a Feb. 10 media briefing, Moreno announced that a proposal for the next group includes individuals 16 to 65 who have an underlying health condition or disability that increases their risk for severe Covid-19. That group of registration priority has not yet been finalized.
The plans reflect a new direction by the state that will leave the sector-based approach and move toward one based on risk, Moreno noted.
Katy Castagna, CEO of United Way Monterey County, said she was aware of the issues surrounding prior vaccine registration, which was all web-based, and that county residents needed more help in registration. She detailed a new phone-based system, which launched this week.
With the new system, people can dial 2-1-1 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to get help from an operator in registering for a vaccination appointment.
“The caveat is anybody who already has access to internet can do it even more quickly themselves,” Castagna said. “We’re just there for the people that need that extra help.”
Castagna also noted the 2-1-1 operators only have access to the same publicly available appointments everyone else has, which are in short supply due to the county receiving vastly fewer vaccine doses than are needed by the public.
“As those become available, we’re here to help people sign up,” Castagna said.
More Covid-19 recovery trailers
Meanwhile, as Monterey County’s infection rates have slowed from the spikes from recent months, the need for Covid-19 Alternate Housing Sites continues.
Two such sites have been operational since their implementation last year, one in Salinas and one in King City at the county-owned San Lorenzo Park.
The county recently received five new trailers to add to the existing 10, which can house up to eight people each who need to quarantine and are unable to with their current living conditions.
“From November to the end of January, we were completely full the whole time, many times nearing our capacity both at our Salinas and South County sites,” said Debra McAlahney Dodson, the county’s Covid-19 Alternate Housing Site program lead.
Dodson said the King City site currently has five full trailers, and the vacancies allow for county staff to upkeep and repair trailers.
“The ones that we had, had been used pretty hard and they’re getting scheduled for repairs,” Dodson said. “We now have more options.”
The trailer maintenance is taken care of by county staff on site. Dodson noted the county wishes to keep the trailers in nice condition, and current repairs are mostly furnaces, cosmetic upkeep and some entryway steps.
The sites receive their guests through referrals from hospitals and clinics in the county. Those facilities ask patients if they have a safe place to isolate in the event they are positive for Covid-19. If not, information is provided to them and a referral is offered.
Dodson said the sites have guests from a variety of backgrounds.
“We get everyone from individuals to families and from homeless to first responders,” Dodson said. “It’s been a super wide range.”
Many of the guests are from Monterey County, but others, such as firefighters or other first responders who have come to the county, might end up temporarily housed at the sites.
“It really surprises me how many people do not know what the Alternate Housing Site program is about,” Dodson said, “or even that we have it.”