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County: Childcare Staff, Homeless Should Get Early COVID-19 Vaccines

When COVID-19 vaccines arrive on Cape Cod, Barnstable County health officials want to see childcare staff and people who are homeless among those who get high priority, even though, to date, they are not specified on the prioity list set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaira Harik, deputy director of Barnstable County Human Services, said that in addition to health care workers and people in long-term care, early vaccines should go to people who are homeless and to workers at childcare centers.

“Particularly childcare centers,” she said. “These staff are key ... to the functioning of our economy, to supporting schools in their hybrid and sometimes remote models. And we don't want to see them overlooked as the vaccination planning rolls out, statewide and locally.”

Members of the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force have said childcare should be viewed, like schools, as part of a system that not only serves the needs of children, but also allows their parents to work.

The state’s draft vaccination plan calls for top priority to go to health care workers likely to be exposed to COVID-19, people who are 65 and older or have underlying medical conditions, and essential workers.

Meanwhile, Barnstable County is hiring two new public health nurses to help schools and skilled nursing facilities control COVID-19.

County health and environment director Sean O’Brien said his office got approval from the county commissioners to create two 18-month positions. One will work with schools, and the other with nursing facilities.

“What I see what I see them doing, especially with the long-term care, is ... working with them on their infectious disease control plans, looking at how staffing may be, [and] assisting them with acquiring the proper PPE,” he said.

The nurse who works with schools will also help with antigen testing and contact tracing.

O’Brien said the nurses have already been hired and will start sometime this month.