Dubuque County supervisors voted, 2-1, March 29 in favor of a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination site in Dubuque.
The site at Grand River Center, as currently planned, would be operated chiefly by the Dubuque Fire Department and require a more than $47,000 buy-in from the county.
The Dubuque County COVID-19 Incident Management Team pitched the site — which would be the county’s second vaccination station — in anticipation of an eventual increase in vaccine doses. Gov. Kim Reynolds has said she expects that increase early in April, which was her rationale behind announcing that all Iowans would qualify for the vaccine as of April 5.
But the county Board of Health chose not to support the new site in a meeting last week. To this point in the ongoing pandemic, supervisors occasionally have voted against a plan that had been supported by the Board of Health. But supervisors had not approved a pandemic relief plan that had been voted against by most of the Board of Health.
County Supervisor Ann McDonough, who voted in favor of the site Monday, said she had been impressed with how adaptable and informative the incident management team had been in its proposal to date.
“Every time we’ve seen the plan, it has changed to adapt to what’s new, what the questions are,” she said. “It’s reflective
of how to address this ongoing crisis.”
Supervisor Jay Wickham said he saw the new site as the next logical step, then voted in favor of it.
“We’ve waded through masks and testing. Now, we’re to vaccination,” he said. “It’s the way that we change the course of this pandemic. From my vantage point, we need to take all reasonable methods to provide.” Supervisor Harley Pothoff voted against the proposal.
“I have a problem with the cost of it yet,” he said. “I don’t really think the Grand River Center is centrally located downtown. There are no residences near it.” Pothoff also questioned whether the increase in doses would come as advertised. And he pointed out that the current vaccination site at Kennedy Mall is not yet at capacity.
“They tell me they have staff on standby who want to come in and help, but they’re not getting enough doses to even need them,” he said.
The piece of the plan that Pothoff joined his fellow supervisors in supporting was one tied to an appointment booking software lease, which would allow residents to call in, speak with a person and book an appointment.
“ With the current phone number that is out there, there’s no person answering inbound calls,” said Dubuque Assistant City Manager Cori Burbach in the meeting for discussion. “You have to leave a message for someone to call you back. We’ve heard it’s often difficult to understand that message, so we’re not providing good customer service.”
Supervisors will have to vote again on a resolution or memorandum of understanding with the City of Dubuque for the plan to proceed, as one was not available March 29.