Mon County school employees get their first COVID-19 shots
The math couldn’t have gone any easier in the gym Friday at Morgantown High School.
Only one number to be concerned with, actually.
Thusly tabulated, there were 405 rolled-up sleeves, 405 bared arms and 405 broad smiles (or tentative grins, depending upon how one may have felt about needles).
That’s how many doses of the Moderna vaccine were delivered to Monongalia County teachers and others who work with students across the district.
Friday was the first day of the rollout for those employees in the 50-year age range.
“Finally,” Toni Malinovich said.
“We can finally start moving ahead for our families.”
Which, for her, is plural, she said.
She’s talking about her family at home and her family at Ridgedale Elementary, where she teaches kindergarten.
Malinovich also means her mother and father — aged 87 and 88, respectively — whom she hasn’t seen for almost a year, over fears of carrying COVID-19 to them.
“They’re the ones I’ve been worried about the most in all of this,” she said.
“Today, we’re finally getting that first level of protection. We’re finally getting that first step back to normalcy. It’s a relief.”
Mon County Schools partnered with Pierpont Landing Pharmacy/Key Pharmacy and Wellness for the collective shot in the arm.
And “relief,” said Susan Haslebacher, who supervises school health services for the district, was probably the word of the day.
“People are relieved,” she said.
“We’re still in the tunnel, but now we really are seeing that light that everyone wants to talk about. Now, we’re actually doing something about it.”
For the recipients on Friday, it will take another 28 just to notch closer to that light.
That’s when the second round of the vaccine is due to guarantee a more than 90% immunity rate.
The first dose automatically notches 50%.
Which is great, Sam Brunett said, but he has to worry about another number — this one in the form of a date circled on the calendar on the wall in the central office of every school district building in every one of the Mountain State’s 55 counties.
That’s when Gov. Jim Justice wants to see elementary students and middle-schoolers back in their classrooms, no matter the infection rate in their respective counties.
When he isn’t teaching art at Morgantown High School, Brunett is father to two young sons.
That’s while serving as Mon County president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, a leading union of educators.
Either one of those roles would give him enough to be worried about concerning the coronavirus, along with the fact that he just celebrated his 56th birthday, which makes him officially COVID-vulnerable.
Brunett said he appreciates the lobbying Mon County’s Board of Education members have done to keep teachers and students safe.
He appreciates what Gov. Jim Justice has also done, he said, but that date has him skittish.
Especially, he said, with the pandemic roiling like never before across West Virginia.
“It’s too premature,” he said. “Going back on the 19th might negate all the good work the governor has already been doing. I don’t see it.”
Mon BOE President Nancy Walker doesn’t see a quick end-around either.
“We’re going to have to have a lot of discussion,” she said.
That begins Tuesday when the board meets at 6 p.m. for its first meeting of 2021.
Walker said she and her colleagues will look at neighboring counties and the unique considerations of Monongalia.
“We have WVU,” she said. “We’re a border county. What might work somewhere else might not be applicable to us.”
What at least worked at Jamie White on Friday were the 405 happy expressions she witnessed while administering the vaccine at MHS.
She’s a Key Pharmacy pharmacist who has done the same work in Preston County, she said.
The other day she administered a shot to a 102-year-old resident of a nursing facility there.
Which gave her pause, she said.
It started her thinking of another set of numbers in 1918 and 1919, when a flu pandemic ravaged the world — with a second in the 21st century, surpassing cases and fatalities.
“None of us today have gone through something like this,” she said of her colleagues in the medical community.
“We’re all learning, and we’re all working. To make things better.”