Vaccine Website, Call Center Launch as County Starts Transition to Phase 1b

As COVID-19 vaccine providers in Missoula County start the transition to vaccinating individuals in Phase 1b, residents can now find up-to-date information about vaccine options by visiting https://covid19.missoula.co/ online or calling 258-INFO if they do not have Internet access.

The Missoula County Vaccine Information page on the website contains information on vaccine providers in the county, including how, when and where each provider is administering the vaccine. Residents with regular healthcare providers should look for that provider’s information on the website. People who do not have regular providers should watch the page for announcements of public clinics, which will begin as more supply of vaccine becomes available. Public clinics will be held soon at the former Lucky’s Market on the south side of Southgate Mall and at the University of Montana. Watch the vaccine information website at https://covid19.missoula.co/ for details on dates and how to register in the next few days.

While vaccine supply will ultimately determine the pace, providers will generally move into Phase 1b by the end of the month. Phase 1b includes residents 70 and older; American Indians and people of color 16 and older, as they may be at elevated risk for COVID-19; and those ages 16-69 with qualifying health conditions. Missoula County residents who meet the 1a criteria but who did not get vaccinated can still be vaccinated as providers move through the phases.  

The state allocation of vaccine to each provider will inform each provider’s strategies in scheduling appointments for vaccine administration. Different providers are managing their patients differently and at different speeds as vaccine supply changes for each provider. As they move through the phases, many providers are contacting their eligible patients who meet the current Phase 1b criteria by mail, telephone, e-mail and established website communication platforms. Residents should not call local hospitals or their providers to receive vaccine doses until they have been instructed to by their healthcare provider. Residents should watch the website to track vaccine availability across Missoula County and continue to monitor where the “line” is and where their places are in it.

The website will also link to a map of vaccine providers and a dashboard that tracks vaccination progress in the county.

For those without Internet access, staff at the vaccine call center can assist with information and scheduling for providers with online registration. Residents will be able to access this call center by calling 406-258-INFO and following the prompts. For medical (non-logistical) questions about the vaccine, visit the Missoula City-County Health Department’s Frequently Asked COVID-19 Vaccine Questions page at https://www.missoulainfo.com/vaccine-faq. This information is also available through the call center for those without Internet access.

Residents can help providers by refraining from calling them directly and using the website instead.

Missoula County has 26 vaccine providers registered to administer the COVID-19 vaccine; however, the limiting factor is the availability of vaccine. Missoula City-County Health Department staff recently learned from state health administrators that Missoula County can expect to receive approximately 1,500 first doses each week for the foreseeable future, based on the state’s entire allocation of approximately 13,000 first doses. Missoula County will likely have nearly 40,000 people expecting to receive the vaccine in Phase 1b. The vaccine scarcity is not unique to Missoula County or to Montana; the shortage is nationwide. Health department leaders continue to advocate for more doses at every opportunity. While we wait, they encourage people to continue to take the standard precautions against transmission of the virus: masking, social distancing, washing hands and keeping their social circles small.

The Missoula County COVID-19 Vaccine Coordination Team is managed by the Western Montana All Hazard Incident Management Team under the Office of Emergency Management. The team formed recently at the request of the Missoula County commissioners and the mayor of Missoula to coordinate the distribution of vaccine in Missoula County. The team aims to reduce public anxiety by providing timely, accurate information and to identify and address barriers to administering the vaccine to all who wish to receive it.

“A primary goal of the vaccination coordination team is to inform the public about vaccine availability in Missoula County and to help direct those eligible residents to a vaccination provider,” said Adriane Beck, director of the Missoula County Office of Emergency Management. “Vaccine supply is extremely limited right now, and not every provider will be receiving vaccine. We thank the public for their engagement and encourage people to monitor the website for changing information as supply increases.”

Missoula County, City launch COVID-19 Vaccination Coordination Team

Missoula County’s Office of Emergency Management, in partnership with the City of Missoula, will stand up a Type 3 Incident Management Team to coordinate COVID-19 vaccine administration throughout the county.

OEM Director Adriane Beck will oversee the efforts of the Missoula County Vaccination Coordination Team, which will open lines of coordination among all vaccine providers to ensure accurate and timely information and data exchange, coordinated vaccine efforts, sharing of resources where appropriate, and planning for each of the phases of vaccination in Missoula County. This team will remain in place until COVID-19 vaccine is widely available in Missoula County to any resident 16 or older who wants to get vaccinated.

Employing the incident management structure, more typically used in Missoula County to respond to natural disasters like wildfires and flooding, will provide the command and management infrastructure to coordinate logistical, fiscal, planning, operational, safety and other aspects of a large-scale vaccination effort among the many entities that will administer the vaccine as we move into Phase 1B.

“As the county enters Phase 1B and beyond, the team will develop strategies for identifying and connecting eligible citizens with a vaccine provider for administration as well as coordinate efforts around mass vaccination events across Missoula County,” Beck said.

The IMT will help centralize efforts among local hospitals and other healthcare providers, the University of Montana, the health department, pharmacies and other vaccine providers.

“We ask for the public’s patience as we develop the strategies necessary to ensure all those Missoula County residents who meet the phase 1B criteria can be connected to a vaccine provider in the quickest, most efficient manner possible,” Beck said. “We also ask for our citizens to be active participants in this process, pay attention to prioritization criteria, be informed about where you personally fall into the categorization and be ready to receive the vaccine when it is time. Much like boarding an airplane, the process goes much quicker when those waiting to board are ready to get in line when their section is called.”

Once these strategies are finalized, communicating up-to-date, accurate information about them to the public will be crucial. The Missoula City-County Joint Information Center, which consists of the multiple government agencies and community organizations responding to COVID-19, will help ensure timely information is widely distributed through the news media, social media, online at covid19.missoula.co and other channels.

Missoula County Awards $46,000 in Grants to Community Centers and Parks

Residents throughout Missoula County will soon enjoy additional community center and outdoor recreation opportunities thanks to $46,000 in matching grants offered by Missoula County’s Parks, Trails and Open Lands Program

Grant funding requests represent the importance of community activities and the priority of shared resources throughout Missoula County. The Seeley Lake Lions Club, stewards of Missoula County’s Clearwater Park that has amenities including a skating pond, walking path and a picnic pavilion, will receive $16,988 to put in a playground, new benches, picnic tables, plantings and other improvements. 

The Potomac-Greenough Community Center will receive $10,365 to purchase a pre-K play structure for their playground. The remainder of the funds will be used for padding in the Potomac Greenough Community center gym, which is the primary recreation complex for the community.  

In Lolo, Travelers’ Rest State Park will receive $8,500 to construct an accessible spur trail, which will link the Bitterroot Trail to the park grounds and will include permanent art installations along the trail.  

Five other grants, which range from $1,300 to $2,700, will help fund maintenance projects to improve parks, trails and recreation areas through the Parks and Trails Matching Grants Program. They will help partner organizations fund the following projects in 2021:   

  • $1,369 to remove barbed-wire fencing and install new perimeter fencing at the Nine Mile Community Center (Nine Mile Community Center). 
  • $1,814 to help replace the roof on the picnic pavilion at the West Riverside Community Park (Friends of Two Rivers). 
  • $1,833 to help remove the volleyball court area and replace it with turf at Kelsey Park in Miller Creek (Upper Linda Vista HOA).  
  • $2,500 for site improvements, memorial plaques, a sheltered kiosk and a protective display at the Seeley Lake Veterans Memorial (Veterans and Families of Seeley Lake). 
  • $2,700 to expand and enhance the Seeley Lake Community Skating Rink by purchasing lights, lumber and a fire hose (Seeley Lake ROCKS).  

“While our grant partners have certainly felt impacts from COVID-19, we are encouraged by the large amount of applications received this year,” Parks and Trails Coordinator John Stegmaier said. “All signs point to communities across the county recognizing the importance of their recreation facilities and a willingness to spearhead improvement projects.”  

The Parks and Trails Matching Grant Program leverages partnerships with local nonprofits and community groups to maintain county parks and other public recreation areas. In these partnerships, the Parks, Trails and Open Lands Program provides planning assistance and funding, while the partner organization matches those funds through a combination of project expenses, in-kind donations and volunteer service hours.  

Missoula County to Award COVID-19 Job Retention Grants to 27 Local Businesses

Missoula County commissioners on Tuesday approved distribution of $624,738 from the COVID-19 Small Business Job Retention Fund to 27 local businesses impacted by the pandemic to help them retain jobs for low- to moderate-income employees.  

Of the grants awarded, 58% went to businesses in the food and drink industry, for a total distribution of $365,000. Twelve percent went to retail businesses, 10% to professional services, 10% to preschool/childcare, 6% to transportation and the remaining 4% to businesses in the lodging industry.  

The 27 recipients experienced an average 45% decline in revenue since the beginning of the pandemic and had to lay off 158 employees. Without the grant funding, it is projected there would be another 166 layoffs in the first three months of 2021. 

“Demand for the funds was overwhelming,” said Melissa Gordon, program manager for Grants and Community Programs. “While the county isn’t able to provide assistance to every business in need, I am hopeful the program will provide the support necessary for grant recipients to retain employment opportunities and stay afloat until the new federal assistance becomes available.”   

In total, the county received 126 applications requesting $2.875 million in funding. The application portal opened at 9 a.m. Dec. 10, and it only took a few hours for the amount of funding requested to exceed the amount available. Applications were considered on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The grants are supported through the Community Development Block Grant Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund, which are federal Department of Housing and Urban Development funds intended to stimulate economic development by providing loans and/or grants to create or retain jobs for low- and moderate-income people. Low- to moderate-income is defined as individuals or families whose household income is up to 80% of the median income for the area when adjusted for family size.  

With the sunsetting of current state and federal COVID-19 assistance programs and the slow winter season just around the corner, commissioners allocated a portion of the available CDBG funds to provide working capital grants to help retain jobs and reduce the significant fiscal impact COVID-19 has had on small businesses and the Missoula workforce. 

Public Q & A on Temporary Safe Outdoor Space set for Dec. 16

The Temporary Safe Outdoor Space is located on a parcel of privately owned land north of Highway 93 between Buckhouse Bridge and Blue Mountain Road. The private property is leased to Hope Rescue Mission for $1. 

The Missoula City-County Joint Information Center for COVID-19 will hold a public question-and-answer session on the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space, a project of United Way of Missoula County and Hope Rescue Mission, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, from noon to 1 p.m. via Zoom.

The forum will feature a brief overview of the project and then will be open for the general public and news reporters to ask questions.

Missoula’s Temporary Safe Outdoor Space is a safe, healthy, secure area on private land, staffed 24/7, that will house 40 unsheltered people during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is being offered during our public health emergency because no local providers of food, shelter or services are able to operate at full capacity. A large number of people are living outdoors in unsafe situations without sanitary facilities.

The Q & A will feature Susan Hay Patrick, CEO of United Way of Missoula County; Eric Legvold, director of impact at United Way; Jim Hicks, executive director of Hope Rescue Mission; and April Seat, the Mission’s Director of Outreach. Others on hand to answer questions will be Adriane Beck, director of the Office of Emergency Management; Chet Crowser, Chief Planning Officer for Missoula County; and Anne Hughes, Missoula County Chief Operating Officer.

The costs to set up the temporary space are being reimbursed through federal CARES Act money, so no local taxpayer dollars are involved. United Way and Hope Rescue Mission are seeking additional funding to sustain the site through the winter. United Way and Mission leaders held a press conference about the plans on Nov. 20, but misinformation persists in the community. The Joint Information Center is sponsoring this forum to foster clear public information.

The Missoula City-County Joint Information Center for COVID-19 (JIC) is responsible for COVID-19-related public information that is not specifically illness-related. It is part of the response to the pandemic led by the Office of Emergency Management, which serves all of Missoula County. The communications staff of the City and County, Allison Franz at Missoula County and Ginny Merriam at the City, lead the unit.

For more information about the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space, visit the online FAQ.

Please click the link below to join the Zoom webinar:

https://ci-missoula-mt.zoom.us/j/84045466167?pwd=YWtsRHBoRCsrT1lXQyt0ZTZ3Z1FHQT09
Passcode: 117479

Or iPhone one-tap : US: +12532158782,,84045466167# or +12133388477,,84045466167#

Or Telephone: Dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 253 215 8782 or +1 213 338 8477 or +1 267 831 0333

Webinar ID: 840 4546 6167
International numbers available: https://ci-missoula-mt.zoom.us/u/kcTD9olSUz

For more information about the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space, visit this Q & A online: https://www.missoulacounty.us/government/administration/commissioners-office/temporary-safe-outdoor-spaceHere are the Zoom instructions for the meeting:You are invited to a Zoom webinar.When: Dec 16, 2020 12:00 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada)Topic: Public Q & A on Temporary Safe Outdoor SpacePlease click the link below to join the webinar:https://ci-missoula-mt.zoom.us/j/84045466167?pwd=YWtsRHBoRCsrT1lXQyt0ZTZ3Z1FHQT09Passcode: 117479 Or iPhone one-tap : US: +12532158782,,84045466167# or +12133388477,,84045466167# Or Telephone: Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): US: +1 253 215 8782 or +1 213 338 8477 or +1 267 831 0333 Webinar ID: 840 4546 6167 International numbers available: https://ci-missoula-mt.zoom.us/u/kcTD9olSUz