COVID vaccine line

Patients wait in their vehicles Monday to register for a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Limestone County Health Department. The five-day clinic is part of a statewide effort to get first responders and elderly residents vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

A large sign on the right side of U.S. 31 southbound warns of traffic ahead. Just past the next road, bright orange traffic barrels block a handful of median crossovers.

If a driver or passenger happens to look toward the health department, they might just catch a glimpse of the line of vehicles that prompted the new highway decor. It’s Week 1 of the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Limestone County Health Department, one of two special clinics being hosted in the county as Alabama works to administer the first round of vaccines to first responders and elderly residents.

“I am thankful so many Alabamians are willing and ready to get their COVID-19 vaccines,” Gov. Kay Ivey said last week, ahead of the clinics opening.

Hotlines were flooded with calls requesting more information and the chance to register for an appointment after the clinics were announced. Felicia Lambert, spokesperson for Athens-Limestone Hospital, said they were receiving upwards of 150 calls a day to the hospital line, and residents have reported calling multiple times to the state hotline but never getting past the busy signal.

With the novel coronavirus likely to cause more severe complications in elderly people, it may come as no surprise that there was a large demand for information and access. Ivey has asked the public to continue to be patient, however, as the state continues working to get enough supply to meet the demand.

“Our current supply remains limited, but we are committed to vaccinating as many Alabamians as possible,” Ivey said. “We will get shots in the arm and off the shelf.”

Residents who register for the ALH clinic can be put on a waiting list for an appointment as appointments become available. To sign up, residents must call 256-262-6188, email schedule@alhnet.org or visit bit.ly/3sp8fbb to fill out an online form.

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A nurse with the Limestone County Health Department reviews patient information before administering the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic Monday. The five-day clinic is part of a statewide effort to vaccinate first responders and elderly Alabamians against the novel coronavirus, which causes the potentially fatal disease COVID-19.

To participate in the health department’s clinic, residents can call 1-855-566-5333 for an appointment. Calls will be answered 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The clinic is at the health department on Clyde Mabry Drive.

While the clinic is open, the road will only be accessible by a right turn from U.S. 31 South, and drivers can only exit by making a right turn from Clyde Mabry Drive onto U.S. 31 South. All motorists are urged to drive slowly and use extreme caution in the area while the clinic is ongoing.

Monday’s numbers

After weeks in the “high risk” or “very high risk” category, the Alabama Department of Public Health has finally designated Limestone County as being at “moderate risk” of community spread of COVID-19.

The county continues to post lower daily confirmed case numbers as the calendar date moves further from the holidays. Limestone reported three-day averages of more than 90 cases four times between Dec. 16 and Jan. 9, but the average has remained below 70 since Jan. 9 and was nearing 40 over the weekend.

Seven- and 14-day averages have followed a similar suit. The seven-day average neared 100 just before Christmas but was below 60 on Sunday, while the 14-day average was around 90 at Christmas and below 70 on Sunday.

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An employee with the Limestone County Health Department gives instructions to a patient Monday at the department's COVID-19 vaccine clinic. Drivers had to wait on Clyde Mabry Drive for their turn to enter the health department parking lot and be directed to a spot inside where they could receive their vaccination against the novel coronavirus.

The percentage of tests being confirmed positive has also fallen. ADPH data shows a positive test rate in Limestone County of about 28% for the two-week period ending Jan. 2 and about 24% for the two-week period ending Jan. 18.

However, that doesn’t mean residents can start planning mask-free rejoicing in large crowds of strangers. The disease continues to pose a real threat and has proven fatal for at least 66 Limestone Countians over the last year, with another eight considered “probable” deaths by COVID-19.

More than 8,000 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the county since March 2020.

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