Every single person reading this, I’m sure, is ready to be done with this pandemic.

I know I am. There is light at the end of the tunnel, it’s true. At the same time, we are more than a year into a reality altered by COVID-19, and I’m tired of it. I’m sure you are, too.

As always, though, I’m looking for silver linings. And there’s been a silver lining happening at the Deschutes County Fair  & Expo Center over the past month.

That’s where, in collaboration with Deschutes County Health Services and the Oregon National Guard, we’re administering doses of COVID-19 vaccine to as many Central Oregonians as we possibly can, based on available supply and the state’s sequencing plan. We believe we’ve completed vaccinating most of the Oregon Health Authority's Phase 1A and group 1 of Phase 1B, which cover local health care workers, first responders, educators, childcare providers, corrections officers and staff at long-term care facilities, among others. Since Jan. 20, we’ve administered vaccines to more than 30,000 people, including many seniors.

And we haven’t wasted a single dose. If you’ve heard otherwise, you’ve heard a false rumor. We haven’t wasted a dose, and we will not waste a dose. 

Vaccinating thousands of people is a very good thing, of course, but that’s not necessarily the silver lining I’m talking about.

The silver lining I see at the fairgrounds is one powered by communication, coordination and collaboration. I see an organized and efficient operation stood up in days by a number of smart people who are dedicated to working tirelessly for the betterment of Central Oregon. I know it took many hours of thinking and talking and planning by folks who don’t work together regularly, but who came together to bring this vaccination site to life.

Those people built online schedules and sent out invitations to sign up. They printed and hung signs and stuck tape on the floor to ensure smooth flow. They set up a registration process and a respite room. They created a temporary pharmacy out of thin air. They recruited experienced vaccinators to administer the vaccines.

We have doctors and nurses and pharmacists and patient access pros out at the fairgrounds because they know how important this is and they want to help. We have executives volunteering to spend weekend days there, just to do whatever is needed at any given moment. We have hundreds of people from across our communities showing up to volunteer, simply because they believe it is the right thing to do.

We are not the only organization involved in this effort, of course — not by a long shot. Many local entities have played a part in this process, and if I tried to thank them all, I would inevitably miss one. So, for now, I’ll just offer up an enthusiastic “thanks!” to Deschutes County for its partnership in making the fairgrounds vaccination site a success and to the Oregon National Guard for sending troops to help out. We are fortunate to have partners who are as committed to getting this vaccine into arms and ending this pandemic as we are here at St. Charles.

All of this makes me smile. And I’m not the only one. Over and over again, as educators and others flocked to the fairgrounds in recent weeks, we heard positive feedback about the operation: Easy. Fast. Professional. Safe. “It didn’t even hurt!” Even when some folks had to wait in line out in the cold, never did we hear anyone complain. The place has been buzzing with positivity.

That’s a testament to the teams that made it happen and the time they’ve put into it. Again, I want to express my sincere gratitude to each and every one of them.

Stay safe out there.


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