The Teton County Health Department in Choteau and Frontier Family Practice in Fairfield are continuing to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to people 70 and older and within the next two weeks will expand eligibility to people 60 and younger with specific underlying health conditions.

According to the state COVID-19 website, healthcare providers have administered 1,041 doses of Moderna vaccine to Teton County residents who qualified under the Phase 1A and Phase 1B definitions, and 268 county residents are now fully vaccinated.

TCHD Director Melissa Moyer said the department administered 120 first doses of the Moderna vaccine on Feb. 12 and 95 second doses to complete the series. The next clinic in Choteau for Phase 1B people 70 and older is set for Feb. 19 at the Choteau Pavilion.

The TCHD is receiving 100 doses of vaccine a week, and is holding vaccination clinic the first three Fridays of the month. The fourth week of the month, the department is sending its 100 doses to Frontier Family Practice.

Kellie Rapp, nurse assistant/office manager at the Fairfield clinic, said last week that they are administering doses to 10 people a day Monday through Thursday by appointment only. The clinic welcomes any Teton County residents 70 and older who wish to be vaccinated to contact the office at 467-3447.

Rapp said the people are placed on a waiting list and contacted by the clinic when a time slot is available. Rapp noted they have designated time slots in the morning and afternoon to allow the clinic to maintain regular clinic services. Those receiving the vaccine will need to remain at the clinic at least 15 minutes after receiving the shot. Recipients will receive both the first and second doses at Frontier Family Practice.

The clinic is also starting a waiting list for those who wish to be vaccinated when the next phase opens. Rapp said these individuals will not receive the vaccine until all current Phase 1A and Phase 1B eligible patients are fully immunized.

Moyer said that starting on March 5, the TCHD is expanding eligibility for vaccinations to county residents 60 and older with the following underlying medical conditions: cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Down Syndrome, heart disease, compromised immune system from organ transplant, severe obesity (a Body Mass Index of 40 or more kg/m2), sickle cell disease and Type I and Type II diabetes. Medical providers on a case-by-case basis may also include individuals who have other conditions that place them at an elevated risk for COVID-19 related complications.

People can register for the clinic by going to the county website at tetoncomt.org and clicking on the “Teton County COVID-19 Information” button. On the next page, click on the “COVID-19 Vaccination Information” button. On the next page, scroll down to the Clinic Date & Location list. Click on “Register” next to the Feb. 19, 2021 clinic. (That button won’t say “Register” until registration opens on Feb. 16. Before registration opens, the button instead says “NOT YET OPEN.”)

If a person did not get an appointment in the Feb. 19 clinic and was placed on a waiting list, that waiting list is only good for the Feb. 19 clinic. When registration opens for subsequent clinics, people will have to go online and register again for that clinic and for subsequent clinics until they successfully get an appointment.

Anyone needing assistance to register for vaccination can call the Teton County Health Department at 466-2562.

Gov. Greg Gianforte last week continued to reopen the state by allowing the statewide mask mandate to expire. Earlier this year, he removed limitations on public and private gatherings and on hours and capacity of businesses like bars, restaurants, breweries and casinos.

Moyer in a post on the Healthy Teton County Facebook page said Teton County does not have a local mask mandate; however, businesses and schools can set their own policies regarding mask use, capacity limitations, social distancing, etc.

“Please be respectful of the precautions our local businesses are taking to protect their worker and our community,” she said. “It is the unequivocal recommendation of the Teton County Health Department that everyone continue to wear a mask, regardless of the directives or mandates that are in place. Additionally, Governor Gianforte has said that he is going to continue to wear a mask and recommends that we continue to follow the CDC’s guidelines.”

Benefis Teton Medical Center in Choteau said it does not plan to make any changes to its masking protocols throughout the hospital, long-term care wing and community clinic.

“The safety of our staff, residents and patients is our top priority, and we feel continuing with our current masking practices is best,” spokeswoman Annie Olson said. “This means anyone coming to our facility (staff and patients) will be expected to wear a mask. As it has all along during the COVID-19 pandemic, our leadership here at BTMC and the Benefis Infection Prevention Team continue to meet at least weekly, and often more frequently to discuss changes, and we will ensure we get the correct message out as soon as something changes. We appreciate everyone’s continued diligence in all the protocols set out to help protect each other and would encourage people to continue their efforts in hand hygiene and social distancing.”

Some businesses and churches announced their response to the expiration of the mask mandate through social media posts with some changing protocols and others planning to continue to require masks to protect their employees and customers.

Last week from Feb. 8 to 14, the county reported 15 new cases, including: one child, ages 10-19, whose gender wasn’t known; eight females, including one age 0-9, two age 10-19, one in her 50s, one in her 60s, one in her 70s, one in her 80s and one age 100; and, six males, one age 0-9, one in his 30s, one in his 50s, one in his 60s, one in his 70s and one in his 80s. Overall, as of Feb. 14, the county has had 425 confirmed cases of the viral illness and has 15 active cases.

Moyer said two of the county’s active cases are hospitalized.