COVID-19 continues to be a crisis of speed.
At the time of publication and roughly one year after the governor declared a state emergency, COVID-19-related deaths ranked third in causes of death across Kentucky. So when the COVID-19 vaccination became available, the governor issued a goal of administering 90% of all vaccines within seven days of their arrival in the Commonwealth – fairly and equitably.
This direction had an especially large impact on the LMPHW team. Louisville-Jefferson County is among the largest metro region in Kentucky, with a population over 617,000 that accounts for almost 14% of the state’s total population. Of those 617,000+, roughly 35% identify as a racial minority1, putting extra emphasis on the need to navigate the nuance and complexity that is required of an equitable approach: identifying vaccination sites that are accessible to underserved communities, addressing language barriers, taking the time (a luxury no one has right now) to understand community-specific concerns, and more.
“If I had 785,000 doses, I would give one to every Louisvillian tomorrow. But that just isn’t the reality right now. So we have to balance these different sometimes competing needs in order to prevent severe disease or death: tier 1-A vaccinations, where we placed a particular emphasis on our long-term care residents who bear a significant portion of the death burden from this disease. We then focused on limiting community spread, so [we focused on] some of our critical infrastructure workers, manufacturing, or those in marginalized communities who are not able to isolate or quarantine or socially distance,” said Dr. Hartlage.
To manage both the workload and the complexity, LMPHW expanded the workforce, hiring an estimated 30% more full-time employees, signing on a number of contractors, and welcoming several volunteers. “So our teams were staffed and our processes were clear, which means next our systems needed to be prepared,” said Dr. Hartlage.