On Monday the King County Council introduced and then ultimately delayed a motion to ask Public Health - Seattle and King County to deliver a detailed version of "the King County unified regional COVID-19 vaccine delivery operational plan."
Though PHSKC health chief Dr. Jeff Duchin and director Patty Hayes have more or less argued that King County's vaccine rollout has gone more smoothly than it has in other places—they've administered a "very high proportion" of the doses meant for those eligible in the first phase (Duchin said 60% on average, with higher rates among physicians and lower rates among assistants and med techs)—the state's vaccine rollout as a whole has been bumpy, uneven, and slow in places.
For instance, the PathFinder tool people can use to find their place in the vaccine line broke for a little bit. The survey is a little too long, and people who struggle with technology struggle with using it. The state health department has been slow to produce a vaccine dashboard, and data about testing is sometimes initially unreliable. The private companies responsible for vaccinating the elderly in assisted living facilities and nursing homes have been too slow, causing the state to scramble to fill the gap. The Seattle Times did a whole thing on this last week.
These general concerns—arising from a "tremendous amount of communication" with constituents and apparently some casual conversations with their buddies, King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci said— prompted members on the Council to file the motion.
They wanted to know how many mass vaccination sites PHSKC plans to stand up. Last Friday King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the county will spend $7 million on such sites, including two in South King County, but the Council wants to know where exactly they plan to stand them up. The Council heard we'll ultimately build nine or ten of these mass vax sites, but they want to know which number exactly, and they want to know the hours of operation.
They also heard fire departments or other emergency personnel might staff mobile vaccine squads or pop-up vaccine huts, and they want to know who, what, how many, and under what conditions. They want to know why they don't know all of this yet, and they want us all to see them asking these questions. Dow can't have all the fun boldly announcing plans to mass vaccinate without regard for where the money will come from! The county's legislative body has an important oversight role, damn it, and they're going to exercise it!!
In doing so, however, some on the Council only revealed that they're not reading Slog or the Seattle Times enough, and they're also not tuning in to Dr. Jeff Duchin's weekly press conferences.
Rather than waste everyone's time talking about info Councilmembers Reagan Dunn and Kathy Lambert could have Googled, I'll touch briefly on the legitimate
beef productive tension between the Council and PHSKC, which right now lies with the Council's desire for plans and the county health department's apparent inability to provide them at the moment.
In an interview before the meeting, King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski said he'd ask PHSKC for these plans in the past, and they'd tell him they were "working on it." During the council meeting on Tuesday, Dr. Duchin said they can't provide the sorts of detailed answers the Council is seeking because they don't know the number of vaccine doses coming down the pike. "We don't know from the Feds from week to week how much vaccine will be available, and so there's no ability to forecast," Duchin said.
"When planning a vaccination clinic, you need to have some stability. You can't set up a large-scale operation not knowing if you're going to have doses available," Duchin said. They don't want to build something they can't fill with vaccines, which might lead to a frustrating situation where people show up and get turned away due to lack of supply.
On a phone call over the weekend, however, someone from the incoming Biden administration told him they'll "do a 'deep dive' into the federal vaccine supply, and they'll be transparent about what we have," which gives him a little hope that they can start producing these detailed plans sometime soon.
Dembowski argued we should already have a plan that assumes we'll receive the supply necessary to run mass vaccination sites so that we can just press play when the time comes. Duchin more or less said yeah that's what we're doing.
Health director Patty Hayes said the "motion assumes we have more control than we do," and reminded the Council that expectations change daily, and that the state made it clear the vaccine supply "won't be increasing in the near-term," though everyone remains hopeful for "a breakthrough from the Biden administration" once those poor bastards get in there and figure out how fucked everything is.
That said, Hayes said discussions with Microsoft and Starbucks have been productive, and the department has been discussing plans to cite some of the vaccination tents at stadiums and figure out how to communicate the data about dose amounts at each of those sites to eligible recipients. All should be revealed "over the next week or so," Hayes said.
"In my head I see this map that would light up for you as doses are made available," Hayes added. Dembowski said he wanted to see that map on paper.