Crowds anywhere create a risk

Last week I received a call from the Highlands County Health Department to set an appointment to receive my second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the HCHD POD site at Lakeside Mall in Sebring.

When I arrived at the appointed time on Friday, April 2, there was a waiting line of hundreds of elderly people crowded together in the hallway with no social distancing, and no mention of an appointment. I waited in line for over an hour and finally gained entrance to a vast waiting area where hundreds more people were seated and waiting. It appeared that I would have to wait another hour before receiving an injection. Realizing that I was putting myself at considerable risk by staying, I left the mall without receiving an injection.

In distributing COVID vaccine, the county health department had created an ideal environment to propagate the virus, with hundreds of individuals of the most vulnerable demographic crowded together for long periods of time with no social distancing enforced. There was no effort made to limit the number of people admitted to the injection site and no consideration for appointment times.

Yes, the people there were about to receive vaccine. But it’s important to note that the vaccine does not prevent one from infection from the virus or from spreading the virus to others: It is only partially effective in reducing the severity of symptoms of an infected person.

I will say that later that day I returned to try again and found only a few people waiting to receive injections, with a much shorter wait time. (Still no social distancing enforced.) But what damage had been done earlier in the day, I wondered.

Joe Hoener

Sebring

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