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National Guard assisting with vaccine distribution across WNC

Individuals getting the COVID19 vaccination in Macon County this week may have received help from members of the National Guard. 

Warren Cabe, Director of Macon County Emergency Management, requested assistance in vaccine distribution and with an administrative team through NC Emergency Management. 

The National Guard arrived the week of January 19, 2021, and we asked for them to be deployed here through February 19, 2021,” said Cabe. “We can request an extension of that.”

During the January Board of Commissioners meeting, Kathy McGaha said that although Governor Roy Cooper announced members of the National Guard being deployed across the state to assist in community COVID19 response, Macon County did not have any members at that time. 

Commission Vice-Chair Ronnie Beale told McGaha that additional NG troops would be available — within a week they arrived in the Western part of the state. 

“The National Guard administrative team has been trained on the Corona Virus Management System (CVMS) which is the data collection system through NC DHHS,” said Cabe. “Among other things, they are taking information that may have been submitted and recorded on paper for registrations and entering it along with scrubbing other data.”

The National Guard assistance comes after McGaha said that the health department didn’t have the capacity to distribute vaccines to all those who have registered due to a lack of staff. In order to provide both COVID19 testing and vaccine distribution more than just a few days a week, National Guard was called in to meet demands of the community. 

“The vaccination team is actually assisting administering vaccines,” said Cabe. “There are six(6) members of the administration team and four(4) members of the vaccination team.” 

Members of the National Guard have been assisting with the state’s COVID19 response since early in the pandemic. From March 6, 2020 to July 31, 2020, the NCNG had 940 service members on duty supporting the NC DHHS and DPS COVID-19 response. Their missions were PPE distribution, COVID-19 testing, food distribution, cyber support and warehouse management and operations.

The Guard ceased COVID-19 support in late July 2020 and restarted their COVID-19 support on Sept. 23, 2020, with approx. 180 personnel providing food bank and COVID-19 testing support.

Jackson County has also been utilizing National Guard Troops during their weekly vaccination efforts this week.

Macon County received notice yesterday that it will be receiving 300 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine per week, for the next three weeks. This number is based on population size. Neighboring counties to the west in Clay County will receive 100 per week, while neighbors in Jackson County will receive 400 per week. These shipments arrive on Tuesdays. The vaccination schedule will change because of the number of vaccines the county expects to receive. 

300 vaccines will mean a 100 vaccine a week increase for Macon County, however not as much of an increase as anticipated. Because Macon County has not received as many vaccines as initially anticipated, many vaccination appointments have been canceled and rescheduled. 

Jackson County has been depleting its weekly supply of vaccines regularly and has a waiting list of over 6,000 residents in the current groups in line for vaccines when they become available. 

President Joe Biden informed Governor Roy Cooper this week that Biden’s administration is ramping up vaccine manufacturing and states can anticipate around a 15 percent increase in vaccine numbers soon. 

All vaccines that Macon County Public Health receives from the state will be used by Macon County Public Health to execute its vaccine efforts. HCA Mission and Pardee were able to re-direct vaccines to the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau COVID-19 Vaccination Initiative clinics, which provided vaccines to those who are eligible and live in the Highlands-Cashiers area.

NCDHHS updates its website to reflect the current group eligible for the vaccine. You can view the site at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/vaccinations. Macon County Public Health will update its social media pages to alert the public when the state and county advance to the next group of vaccination. At this time, Macon County Public Health and NCDHHS are not scheduling individuals for vaccination in groups other than Groups 1 and 2.

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