BY RANDALL RYTI
Los Alamos County Council Chair
Planning and coordination are essential government functions. In 2020, Los Alamos County updated our plans to include coordination with the State on public health emergencies. Our Emergency Manager, Beverley Simpson, also prepared a Point of Distribution plan for vaccines. This plan was reviewed and approved by NM Department of Health (DOH) in 2020. This vaccine distribution plan is being implemented for the COVID vaccination clinics being sponsored by NMDOH. At this time NMDOH is the source of all vaccines coming to Los Alamos. The distribution plan has sufficient capacity to vaccinate 500 people per hour using a drive through at the Los Alamos High School. While the actual clinics implemented to date have a smaller throughput, around 1000 per day, there is sufficient capacity to vaccinate more people than have been vaccinated to date in Los Alamos County.
I’ve relayed community concerns to NMDOH about this shortage of vaccine for our community. As others have noted in the last week, our per capita vaccination rate has been about half of the statewide average, as reported on the State’s COVID dashboard. I thank Representative Chandler for setting up a meeting with Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins and Beverley Simpson for setting up a meeting with our Regional NMDOH Director Nick Boukas. Equity of vaccine doses around the State is an objective of NMDOH, however many residents have commented on an apparent discrepancy in the reported vaccination rates when comparing our community to others, and the State recently announced upcoming changes to this reporting system designed to address many perceived reporting errors. The updated vaccine dashboard does show a higher fraction of County residents with one or both doses (county rank 22 of 33 with 15.7 doses per 100 people [full immunization would be 200 doses per 100 people for the current two-dose vaccines]).
Regardless, with current demand outstripping supply we have asked NMDOH to bolster the supply for future vaccine clinics in Los Alamos County; we have sufficient capacity with multiple volunteers and Nambe Drugs who has stepped up as a vaccine provider. I will continue to urge NMDOH to schedule clinics for new doses of the vaccine. I know we still have people waiting for their initial dose in the 75+ year age group as well as adults in the 60+ year age group with potential health complications. At last count we have about 4500 people remaining who are in need of the next phase of scheduled vaccines, referred to by the NMDOH as group 1B.
In addition, I have been communicating with both Los Alamos Medical Center and Los Alamos National Laboratory to make sure we are collaborating and not competing for limited resources. LAMC has supported the County’s COVID response through patient care and vaccinations of health care workers. If supply was not limited, LANL could be vaccinating 1000 employees per day. This could benefit Los Alamos County and our neighbors. But supplies are limited, and I will ensure that we see substantial progress in the vaccination rate of County residents.
While supporting COVID vaccination of our citizens, the Council is also continuing to address the strategic priorities important to our community. At the February 16th Work Session, we have four main topics. The Los Alamos County Health Council, which helps coordinate groups supporting improvement to public health and wellness, will provide an update on their activities. The DOE Environmental Management Program will report on the status and current recommendations to address the hexavalent chromium and RDX groundwater plumes. Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) will provide an update on the Carbon Free Power Project in terms of the project subscriptions and current funding/schedule. This project would ultimately lead to the construction and operation of a small modular nuclear reactor facility in Idaho Falls ID.
The Work Session will also include an update on the 90 day due diligence period for the potential purchase of the former CB Fox and Reel Deal buildings. Council members have had the opportunity to tour the buildings in subquorum groups, and information on the reuse or redevelopment options will be provided. No action is planned at this Work Session. At the March 16th Work Session Council will decide whether to proceed or not with these purchases.
At the March 2nd Regular Council Meeting we are scheduled to consider fees for environmental services, plans for the Canyon Rim and Urban trails, the Racial Equity and Inclusivity Task Force Charter (and appointments if approved), and the 2020 employee survey results.
If you have any comments or questions about these items or other County matters, please reach out to me or any member of Council.