BY SARA SCOTT
Los Alamos County Councilor
This note provides an update regarding local COVID-19 related initiatives including vaccination, testing, and the path forward for obtaining and dispersing federal American Rescue Plan funds. I hope it finds you, your friends and families well and enjoying a few more opportunities to share the refreshing days and outdoor activities that we are so lucky to have access to here in our amazing community.
We are making important progress towards getting vaccinated. Of the 15,240 residents 16 and older, 85.1% have registered for vaccination and as of April 20, about 73.5% of residents 16 and older have received an initial dose and 46.5% have completed vaccination. The statewide numbers are 56.4% and 38.3 %, respectively. One new avenue to help us accelerate these numbers are the upcoming events on Sunday April 25 and May 16 which will offer 1200 Pfizer vaccinations each day. The significance of these events, in addition to offering twice as many doses as provided at ongoing Monday clinics, is that the Pfizer vaccine is available to younger residents, those 16 and older. The event code for this clinic is AFGKMXW.
In addition to these Pfizer vaccination opportunities, future events are scheduled for every Monday through May (each for about 700 Moderna vaccinations, available to those 18 and older). Residents can also receive vaccinations at the Medical Associates of Northern New Mexico, Smith’s Pharmacy in both Los Alamos and White Rock, and Los Alamos Medical Care Clinic. Additionally, Trinity Urgent Care and High Mesa Dental have submitted applications to be certified vaccine providers. According to the county’s Emergency Manager, approval for use of the Pfizer and Moderna in vaccinating 12–16-year-olds is anticipated in the next few months. For additional information regarding how to register for a vaccine or where to get one please call 1-855-600-3453, press option 0 for vaccine questions, and then option 4 for tech support. The call center is open every day from 8 AM to 5 PM, or go to vaccinenm.org to register for a vaccine.
All of these options will provide those eligible but not yet vaccinated with an opportunity to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. More people’s getting vaccinated will also help us get back to fuller social and economic lives as soon as possible.
A big hats off to everyone who is making this amazing drive to get our citizens vaccinated possible. To Nambe Drugs and the county’s Emergency Manager Bev Simpson and their tireless leadership in organizing and conducting these mass vaccination efforts that are having such a significant impact on our community’s vaccination rate; I hear over and over again how well organized and appreciated these events are. To all of the volunteers and the many hours they have dedicated to this critical undertaking. To all of the other providers who are also working to support vaccination in our community. And to our community members who are making the effort to get vaccinated and continue to wear masks, distance when in public, and minimize trips and travel so that together we can continue to grow the opportunities for our children, businesses, and community to thrive. We are really showing our Los Alamos spirit as we have since the beginning of the pandemic.
As emphasized via the New Mexico Mayor’s Council meetings which Chair Ryti regularly attends, it is still important to continue testing as more people get vaccinated. Testing is integral to the gating criteria and in helping to understand the efficacy of the vaccines in the real world and as variants continue to spread. Testing events continue at the Overlook Park every Tuesday and Thursday. The Public Health Office continues to offer testing and appointments can be made at for Monday, Weds and Fridays at https://cvprovider.nmhealth.org/directory.html Additionally, Vault self-administered kits can be delivered by mail to your home free of charge. To order a test, please go to learn.vaulthealth.com/nm/.
The county currently anticipates receiving about $3.8M through funding allocated to local governments as a part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the most recent relief package aimed at mitigating the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Allowed use of funds is stated to include response to the COVID-19 emergency through aid to households, small businesses, nonprofits, and industries such as tourism and hospitality as well as investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. State allocations will be made separately from the local government allocations and it is anticipated that some of the New Mexico state funding, about $1.6B, will also be available to address local needs and initiatives.
As a result of the county staff and community partners’ proactive and effective efforts last year, the Los Alamos proposal for federal CARES Act funds made available by the State to counties and municipalities around New Mexico, resulted in receipt of more than $1,700,000 in grants to our local businesses ($1,551,000) and individuals ($169,000) in need. The process, including the call for and review of applications was set up quickly and initial disbursements were made within four weeks of funding allocation. While the American Rescue Plan Act funds will come directly from the federal government rather than through the state, in contrast to how Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds were handled last year, a similar process for disbursement of American Rescue Plan Act funds is being established. At this point, county staff are attending information sessions and training to understand specifics of the process including program requirements and timelines. Additional updates will be provided as available.
It’s no surprise that even with all the COVID fatigue that we all know is out there, our community continues to work together and support each other; we’ve still got a way to go but we’ll keep after it and keep making a difference – because that’s who we are.