The Key West Mystique

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Covid vaccination

Can’t get your Covid-19 shot? It’s not a plot against Key West

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.

02/03/2021

Let’s get this out of the way right here since some folks won’t be inclined to read on: There was no plan for effectively distributing the Covid-19 vaccine. Nowhere was there much of a blueprint for how best to get shots in arms. In some places – Florida, I’m looking at you – incompetence is rampant. We ought be ashamed. But failure to score a vaccination appointment is not proof of satanic plots and conspiracies against Key West.

For weeks, we’ve shared collective angst about the Covid-19 vaccinations. Every time we refreshed a browser window and came up empty, we’d get this little frisson of outrage. Each time the online registration crashed or the phone went unanswered, there’d be another jolt. If we or our friends and family weren’t digitally savvy or if the systems weren’t accessible to those with special needs, the adrenaline surged. And, the one we buried because it was just too awful to admit: our annoyance with friends who got theirs before we did. Been there; done that. Yes, I have. So don’t be thinking I’m picking on others.

We’ve begun to sound like the QAnon crowd.

Friends, none of that is evidence of satanic plots and conspiracies. There was no convincing the social media posters who opined that the reason Monroe County wasn’t getting vaccines was because it was Democrat-leaning and Florida’s Republican governor was “punishing us.” Uh. No. Monroe County, from Stock Island to the mainland, votes Republican and heavily so. If he wanted to get at light-blue Key West, he could have cut our local Publix out of his distribution list.

Similar blame-gaming surfaced last Spring when there weren’t enough Covid-19 tests. When’s the last time you heard anything about not being able to get tested? Months. Because once the supply-and-distribution chains ratcheted up, getting a Covid-19 test is darn near as simple as doing one of those fill-in-the-blank-on-a-stick tests. Home tests are headed to a pharmacy shelf near you.

This past week, the Monroe County Health Department opened its vaccination sites, began calling back some of the folks who’d gotten registered and it plans to put the first shots in arms on Saturday. The list of those with appointments at Publix is growing. Hand-in-hand those two things have calmed down the social media, conspiracy angst, though not by much.

A successful vaccination program includes a stable and efficient supply chain and consistent and adequate supplies. Monroe County and to a significant extent the state have little control over this. That will happen at the national level, tasks made difficult because, well, nothing much was done about either until late January.

And, there’s this twist to knot: As the virus continues to morph, expect to need a booster or two and we’ll be back to figuring out how to get that done. Imagine, if it were to come about this way, snowbirds getting shots one and two in Key West — and having to return to Key West in off-season for the booster.

The state, counties and business partners will figure out the best digital platforms for registering, scheduling and tracking shots in arms. There’s no magic wand solution and no one-size-fits-all despite what the people who can’t figure out how to use an online password keeper think. I’m glad decisions about how to give shots are left up to the locals even with some fits and starts.  For sure, there are lessons to be learned from other sites, but what works for Key West isn’t likely to be ideal for, say, Tallahassee, much less Wisconsin in the winter.

Every time the I put my finger on the outrage button I remind myself — cliches ahead — this whole Covid world is like changing four tires at 120 miles an hour. It can be done. With the right tools, the right people with the right smarts at the right time, it can be done, though rarely well in the beginning and not without disasters and hiccups throughout. Oh, and you’ve got to change those tires while masked, washed and distanced.

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Linda Grist Cunningham

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.

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