New Canaan Health Director on Vaccine Allocation: ’We Just Need the State To Be a Little Nicer’

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New Canaan’s health director estimated Thursday that roughly half of the town’s 75-and-over population had started the process of getting COVID-19 vaccinations.

The figure includes those in Waveny LifeCare Network facilities, though it’s not definitive because the state’s management system for administering vaccines doesn’t provide that level of detail, according to Jenn Eielson.

“I am hopeful, because we still have a lot of people on our list that have called and want to be on it, so even if we can get 200 doses next week it would be a huge help because a lot of these—especially the 85-and-up—really can’t get to these other sites and have mobility issues,” Eielson told the Board of Selectmen during their regular meeting, held via videoconference.

“And we spend so much time at the clinic helping them, not only getting them from the car, then to the booth, filing out their paper work, walking them to the other rooms, [Recreation Director] Steve Benko walking them back to the car. You’re not going to get that personal level at a hospital or anywhere else. They’ve all been very appreciative, very thankful and there haven’t been any issues. And we have plenty of vaccinators, so given that four-hour timeframe, I could easily add the other 100 without skipping a beat. It doesn’t change anything for us. We have the capacity. We just need the state to be a little nicer.”

The comments came during Eielson’s brief presentation on the Health Department’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 that turned into a longer discussion about COVID-19 cases and vaccinations.

Selectman Nick Williams asked Eielson what she needed.

“We are in the middle of this pandemic” he said. “There’s no more important department, frankly, than your department. And you have done an incredible job under ridiculous circumstances. And so my question to you is: What else do you need from us to support you and your team, if anything?”

She answered, “Just sleep and vaccine, that’s all I need.”

Williams said, “Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like the state is being very helpful to the town of New Canaan with respect to vaccines. Maybe if we all go to sleep, we’ll wake up and Gov. Lamont will give us some vaccines.”

The Connecticut Department of Public Health on Monday afternoon reported 14 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 virus for New Canaan over the weekend. The town’s cumulative total of 962 is up 24 in the prior seven-day period. 

As she has in the past, Eielson during the meeting thanked several volunteers and workers for their help during the pandemic, including Tracey Karl, Anna Valente-Krolikowski and Jenny LaFond, calling them “my biggest help.”

“Anna has been invaluable to me and my staff, being here and learning everything,” Eielson said.

Williams asked what town residents can do to help as concerned citizens.

Eielson said, “Follow all the rules so we can get the case numbers back down, that would be great. That would be number one, I would ask for. And then number two, make sure—because people will talk, it’s a small town—that accurate information is being shared.”

People are getting “jammed up” with “inaccurate information, and that is not helpful at all,” she said.

Williams asked whether she was referring to social media, and Eielson said “yes.”

“It doesn’t do anyone a service when you give people the wrong information,” she said. “Like right now, we are focusing by the state directive on 75-and-over. And the governor, as you saw the other night in his email about ‘essential’ workers, he makes that definition in his group of who an ‘essential’ worker is. So I don’t have the arbitrary control to decide what business in town is going to be considered ‘essential.’ It’s very clear in that definition of what that is. And I think we just have to, as that definition gets completely solidified, right now it’s still a draft. We need to just be clear that we get the accurate information out there. Because what’s going to happen, you know and I know, the restaurants because they’re ‘essential,’ will be up for vaccination, and the other stores will be like, well what about me? And we have to follow the directives.”

Asked about what had originally been planned for COVID-19 testing on Tuesday, Eielson said that, anticipating the snow storm, officials last week moved all of those seeking to be tested to Monday morning before the heaviest snowfall hit and most of those enrolled went in for testing with no issue.

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