Lancaster County may set up a mass Covid-19 vaccination site next year, if distribution through hospitals, doctors' offices and pharmacies isn't sufficient to handle demand, officials said Tuesday.
The county is evaluating two potential sites, said Phil Colvin, director of the Lancaster Emergency Management Agency, one at a School District of Lancaster site, the other in the county's southern end.
Plans are still preliminary, and a public site may not be needed, he said. A lot will depend on the vaccine supply and how quickly it is ramped up.
The first doses of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine are expected to be available by mid-December. Another vaccine developed by Moderna is expected to begin distribution shortly after that, and additional ones are on the way.
Lancaster County will be part of Pennsylvania's three-phase vaccine distribution plan. Phase 1 will target health care providers, emergency workers and the highest-risk populations; Phase 2 will target other high risk individuals along with the education and child-care sectors; Phase 3 will target the remainder of the general population.
Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health plans to offer decentralized distribution through its doctors offices and urgent care centers as well as hospitals, chief clinical officer Dr. Michael Ripchinski said —some 70 sites in all.
LG Health is also looking at expanding Covid-19 testing, Ripchinski said, through partnerships with schools and possibly the creation of one or more drive-through testing sites.
The health system's contract with the county was based on conducting an average of 500 tests per day, with surges of up to 1,000 a day. Lately, LG Health has been testing around 1,200 individuals a day, Ripchinski said.
Schools evaluating state mandates
Colvin's and Ripchinski's comments came in the course of a pre-Thanksgiving Covid-19 briefing at the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center.
Districts have until 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 30 to certify that they will comply with stricter Covid-19 protocols, or else they must shift to 100% remote education. That's very little time for due diligence, and is too tight to allow for public discussion, Bromirski said.
In Hempfield's case, families surveyed before the start of the school year overwhelmingly favored in-person learning, Bromirski said.
U.S. Rep Lloyd Smucker said Congressional negotiations on additional Covid-19 relief are ongoing. He said he supports the HEALS Act, a GOP package that would cost roughly $1 trillion.
Democrats, he said, are holding things up in hopes of passing their preferred legislation, the HEROES Act, which he termed "a partisan spending wish list."
House Democrats have passed two versions of the HEROES Act, a $3.4 trillion version in May and a slimmer $2.2 trillion version in October. Both have stalled in the Republican-majority Senate.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has posted a rough comparison of the May HEROES Act and the HEALS Act.