HUDSON -- St. Croix County is expected to receive its first shipment of vaccines next week as focus shifts to distribution planning.

The county has been approved as a COVID-19 vaccine enrollment provider, Public Health Officer Kelli Engen told County Board Tuesday, Jan. 5.

“We can start this week requesting doses of vaccine with the hope we will have vaccine in our hands next week,” she said.

The state has outlined a tiered approach for how the vaccine will be distributed. Critical care workers and long-term care staff and residents will make up Phase 1A. Essential workers will then be Phase 1B and individuals over age 65 as well as those with underlying health conditions will be Phase 1C. Phase two and three will then include general populations.

“We have to work through these phases in a linear process,” Engen said.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Long-term care facilities have their own programs with pharmacies to receive the vaccine, and many health care systems are vaccinating separately as well. This means the county will focus on EMS in the first phase of vaccinations. Some EMS workers are affiliated with health care systems and have been vaccinated, Engen said, but many in the county are volunteers and have not yet received their first round of shots.

As the county moves further through the phases, Engen said the plan is to hold vaccine clinics one day a week. Community vaccinations would likely be in late spring or early summer.

The department is working to manage people’s expectations of how quickly vaccines will be distributed.

“This is going to be at least a 12 month process,” Engen said.

Residents can fill out a form to be notified when vaccine are available for their phase, according to public health. These notifications will be sent via text, phone or email.

Information on vaccine distribution is available at sccwi.gov/ COVID1-19-Vaccine. The county will also be sending out newsletters, one in January and one in March or April, that will include vaccine information. Additional information can be found at sccwi.gov/covid19.

About the vaccine

The U. S. vaccine safety process makes sure all vaccines are as safe as possible, Public Health said in a news release. Each approved vaccine has gone through clinical trials with thousands of participants.

The COVID-19 vaccine is administered in two doses. With both doses the effectiveness of the vaccine is between 94-95% effective, the public health news release said.

COVID cases

With the vaccine on the horizon, the county had moved down to the "orange" risk level for COVID-19 at the time of the meeting. It had been in the red, "uncontrolled spread" level of the Harvard Global Health Institute's COVID-19 risk metric following a spike in cases in November. On Jan. 6, it was back in the red.

“I’m hopeful we have turned a corner in St. Croix County, but I want to make sure we are not giving up on our efforts,” Engen said.

Epidemiologist Elle Klasen said it’s now a balancing act, and she hopes people continue to wear their masks and numbers stay down so the county can move toward a vaccine response.

As of Jan. 5, the county had 6,634 positive COVID-19 cases. Fifteen people were hospitalized and 29 deaths were reported to date.

Klasen walked county supervisors through the county’s new COVID-19 public dashboard, which features expanded information on the situation in the county.

The county had a 22% positive testing rate. That number includes the PCR tests that the state deems as confirmed tests, not the rapid antigen tests.

The county has seen a drop off in testing since Christmas, as well as a small drop off in the number of positive tests. However Klasen emphasized that it is too small of a time frame to look for trends or take solid points from it.