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‘Closer to getting our lives back’

As it has been for the past month, the gymnasium in the South Point Board of Education building was the site of a mass COVID-19 vaccination on Wednesday.

This time, the goal was to vaccinate as many school employees in Lawrence County as possible with a first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s for all school personnel– teachers, custodians, cafeteria employees, bus drivers– everyone,” said Angela Doyle, director of nursing for the Lawrence County Health Department.

She added that it was necessary to help get kids back into schoolrooms on regular basis.

“One thing, it will be better for their mental health, they are lacking that communication and interaction that they need,” she said. “And it is not only good for their mental health, it is good for that one-on-one classroom experience. And this will help get teachers back in the classrooms and that is good for their mental health.”

Debbie Fisher, nurse and public information officer for the Lawrence County Health Department, said they have worked well with all the schools, the Lawrence County Educational Service Center and the superintendents to put on the mass vaccination clinic.

“Our biggest hope is that every person we vaccinate, then we are one step closer to getting our lives back,” she said. “We want our lives back, we want to be able to do the things we did pre-COVID and this vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The goal was to vaccinate between 1,000–1,200 employees and by 2 p.m. Wednesday, they had done over 800 with help from a lot of agencies, including nurses from all the public schools and volunteers from the Ohio University Southern nursing program, the Collins Career and Technical Center nursing program, EMTs from Lawrence County EMS, OVP Health Care, the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization Family Medical Centers and Cabell-Huntington Hospital.

“We have a lot of community volunteers to make this possible,” Doyle said. “We couldn’t do a mass vaccination without community partners.”

She added that with the vaccine, people will still have to follow social distancing guidelines, wash hands and wear masks.

Georgia Dillon, the Lawrence County Health Commissioner, said the school personnel vaccination event was going well.

“We have been planning this since last August with the superintendents and have met with them several times,” she said. “But we couldn’t have done anything like this without our community partners.”

Heather Pinkerman, a substitute cook at Symmes Valley Elementary, got her shot Wednesday afternoon for a very simple reason, “to keep from getting COVID.”

“I want to help keep everyone in the community safe and my family safe,” she said.

Kayleigh Stevens, the sixth-grade language arts teacher at Symmes Valley Elementary, got vaccinated for the school and for her family.

“I want them to be safe. And I’m sure my students want to hear all about how I got a shot in the arm,” she said, with a laugh.

And even though she will still have to follow COVID-19 prevention steps, she is excited about seeing family again.

“It’s been over a year since I’ve seen my mom and dad,” she said. “I’m looking forward to get this done so I can see them again.”

Dillon said that they appreciated Mark Christian, the superintendent of South Point schools, letting them use the gym for the past month.

For his part, Christian said he was happy to help the community by letting the health department use the building.

“It’s a good central location and there are no steps to hinder elderly people. There is lots of parking. It was a just a good place to have it,” he said.

The board of education building used to be the high school, so the gym isn’t used during the day typically and the youth basketball league that uses it at night canceled their season because of the pandemic, so the health department could just leave the tables and chairs up for the next day of clinics.

“We’re glad to be of service and that everyone is getting the vaccine and helping to make everyone safer,” Christian said. “The health department is doing an awesome job and they’ve been here almost a month now and been doing 400-500 people a day.”

Dillon said that the health department has seen the number of new COVID-19 cases declining over the past month.

“Our COVID-19 cases are going down. They are back down in the teens instead of over 100,” she said. “I think there are some cases we aren’t getting but for the most part we know the numbers are going down and the more vaccines we can get out to Lawrence County residents, the more the numbers will go down and we will be able to do a great job and service to the community.”