Commissioners revisit healthcare policies after year of COVID

PINEDALE – As daily active COVID-19 cases once again flatten throughout the county, the Sublette County Board of Commissioners addressed numerous items that were implemented a year ago to combat the incoming pandemic at its meeting on Tuesday inside the Pinedale Library’s Lovatt Room.

Janna Lee, nurse manager at Public Health, David Doorn, administrative director at the Sublette County Rural Health Care District, and Dr. Brendan Fitzsimmons were brought in for multiple agenda items and to field questions from the board.

First, the board approved a contract to extend Dr. Fitzsimmons’ role as county health officer pending minor tweaks being made in contract negotiations between the county attorney’s office and the state attorney general’s office. Dr. Fitzsimmons thanked the commissioners for their support over the past year.

Lee delivered a Public Health update, going over numbers reported at the end of last week. She said that while previous weeks’ active cases were near 20-cases per week, as of Monday afternoon the county’s active case count was nine. Active cases count as within ten days of symptom onset. She said the county’s rise in cases were at the same time of Easter and Spring Break and perhaps cases could return to their pre-break dormancy in the county.

Fitzsimmons and Lee teamed to field commissioners’ questions. They explained differences in immune systems from person to person account for differences in reaction to the vaccine doses. They are both aware of people who contracted COVID-19 after getting vaccinated, albeit with diminished symptoms.

Commissioner Doug Vickrey asked about reported death numbers. Fitzsimmons explained there was one where a Sublette resident contracted the virus elsewhere and died elsewhere, which contributed the county’s total. He also said he was aware of two people in the past year who died in nursing homes with COVID-19 but their deaths were not attributed to COVID-19 because it was not a main contributing factor.

Lee said Pfizer has applied for FDA approval that would allow children as young as 12 to receive the vaccine. She explained that Public Health has already connected teens between 16 and 18 with locations in Fremont, Teton and Sweetwater counties where they could receive the Pfizer vaccine. If Pfizer’s latest application gets approved, Lee said she hopes to administer some Pfizer vaccines in the county.

Public Health continues to offer vaccines every other Tuesday at the fairgrounds and every Thursday behind the Museum of the Mountain Man, although registration numbers will drop considerably next week, she said. So the focus goes onto those with more vaccine hesitancy.

Sublette Unified Fire Chief Shad Cooper came up to join Lee and Fitzsimmons to discuss the ICS Transition Plan. It was Cooper and Lee’s opinion to dissolve the Sublette COVID-19 Response Group and divert resources to either the county or to Public Health. The commissioners approved that decision while thanking all the members involved for their efforts. Lee added she hopes to contract Deanne Swain to continue sharing information with the public.

After a short break, David Doorn updated the commissioners on the hospital district. He said he expected a draft agreement on a management partner contract would be finished by the end of that afternoon. He said the district hopes to submit its application for its USDA loan by the first week of May and an answer would hopefully come by the first week of July. Doorn said there’s been an agreement to send RFQ out to contractors and they hope to receive word back from contractors by the end of the month.

Doorn said the Joint Planning Committee – consisting of representatives from the hospital board, Rural Health Care District board and the Sublette Center – have began meeting so all entities could remain on the same page. He said they’ve also gotten together to fundraise and seek grant money.

Commissioner Vickrey asked about environmedial isolation units and if they were in use. Doorn said they are currently used for testing.

“We can’t let our guard down,” Doorn said.

Doorn also thanked the board for communication and support throughout the past year and ICS Transition process.

County Administrator Matt Gaffney allotted time for a presentation from the Medical Air Services Association but a representative couldn’t make it over South Pass during the snowy Tuesday morning.