Los Alamos County Emergency Manager Updates Council On COVID Vaccination Status

Los Alamos County Emergency Manager Beverley Simpson. File photo 

Los Alamos Daily Post

The COVID-19 situation in Los Alamos is beginning to improve and County Emergency Manager Beverley Simpson reported during the Jan. 26 regular council meeting on efforts underway to administer vaccines to the local community.

Regarding vaccinations already administered, Simpson said Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) provided 407 vaccines to staff to date and expected to provide an additional 100 vaccines last week. Additionally, she reported that the number of onsite workers at LANL was at 35 percent. 

Los Alamos Medical Center has inoculated 420 individuals and expected to vaccinate 60 more last week. Simpson said the vaccine supply of vaccinations to the hospital had been delayed but was expected to arrive Jan. 27. 

As for Los Alamos Public Schools (LAPS), Simpson said 149 individuals were vaccinated but the school district required 450 vaccinations to fully vaccinate its workforce that are face-to-face with students. She also reported that the County would deliver personal protection equipment (PPE) to LAPS by today, Feb. 1. 

In total for Los Alamos, Simpson said 7,618 people were registered on the Department of Health’s (DOH) website to receive the vaccine and 1,132 have been vaccinated. She said many seem to be waiting for the vaccination process to reach their phase before registering. It is expected that more will register for the vaccine as phases 1A and 1B are completed. 

Additionally, Simpson said LANL employs 5,359 Los Alamos residents and the lab anticipates vaccinating  1,000 LANL employees a week in the next three weeks, not including contractors.

“So that will definitely help Los Alamos County’s numbers,” she said. 

Simpson further pointed out that anyone younger than 16 years old will not get vaccinated; this age group, according to the 2019 Census, amounts to 22 percent of the local population. 

“With those numbers, that will bring us up to 19,000 resident that we have in Los Alamos County,” she said. 

One of the current phases of the vaccination process, 1A, still needs to vaccinate 118 individuals. This phase is for healthcare workers, first responders, etc., Simpson said. The other current phase, 1B, is for individuals 75 years old or older and those with severe immuno-comprised conditions. In this group, Simpson said there are 1,245 people registered and 317 of them have received their first dose of the vaccine. The Los Alamos and White Rock Senior Centers held vaccination clinics this weekend and Simpson reported Jan. 26 that an additional 600 vaccinations were anticipated to be administered. 

The following phrases include 1B2, which includes those who are 16-75 years old and those with health conditions. So far 2,000 of those in this group have registered on the DOH website, Simpson said. She added that the final phase, phase two, which is the general population, has almost 1,600 people registered. Upcoming vaccination clinics are Feb. 1, Feb. 8 and Feb. 10. Each of these clinics will administer the booster, or second round of the vaccine, Simpson said. 

Work is underway with the DOH to setup weekly inoculation clinics, Simpson said. 

Councilor David Izraelevitz commended Simpson and her staff. 

“I’ve just heard very good things and I want to take that opportunity to express my gratitude for those involved,” he said. 

Regarding the weekly COVID-testing clinics, County Manager Harry Burgess said the County had been providing Fuller Lodge for the National Guard to provide the Curative tests, but the venue changed to Overlook Park in White Rock and the clinics are now being operated by Curative staff.

The first clinic at Overlook was last week and 86 people attended the clinic. The Curative drive-through testing occur 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. Testing is free. To schedule an appointment, individuals are advised to visit: curative.com.

As far as County staff, Burgess said while the Coronavirus Relief Act, which required organizations to extend leave up to 80 hours for COVID-related issues, has expired, he extended the provision for County staff who are either directed by the DOH to quarantine or have had contact with COVID. Burgess said there has been a rise in COVID cases in some County departments. He reported some detainees at the Judicial Complex have tested positive for COVID, which puts the staff in a bind. 

Other business conducted during the Feb. 26 meeting: 

Passing Ordinance No. 703

Council unanimously passed ordinance No. 203, which authorized a $540,000 grant and a $360,000 loan from the New Mexico Finance Authority for the construction of a 1-million-gallon effluent water storage tank. The tank will be in Pueblo Canyon near the composting facility and will be used to irrigate Los Alamos Golf Course, the North Mesa ballfields and expand the County’s effluent water use. 

Council Vice Chair James Robinson said he felt this was a positive step for the County. 

“I think this will be a great asset to our community, especially in recycling as much of our effluent water as we can,” he said. 

Councilor Denise Derkacs pointed out that the additional water tank in Pueblo Canyon also will be helpful in wildfire fighting efforts. 

Passing Ordinance No.702

Council also passed 7-0 ordinance No. 702, which makes a personal income tax rebate available to eligible low-income Los Alamos taxpayers for tax years 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. 

“I always whole heartedly support endeavors to lower the burden the government places on low-income residents,” Councilor Sean Williams said.

Izraelevitz suggested Burgess talk to the County’s social services to provide more outreach on this rebate. He said he was concerned not many people are aware of it. 

Awarding a bid for Canyon Rim Trail underpass

A bid to construct an underpass for the Canyon Rim Trail passed, but just barely. Council approved 4-3 to award a $2.9 million bid to AUI to construct the underpass, which will connect the south side Canyon Rim Trail to Entrada Drive on the north.

Some councilors felt the underpass was necessary for safety reasons. 

“This is a safety issue,” Scott said. “I don’t want to see someone get hurt…”

She pointed out that an underpass was part of the original plan for the trail. The cost had increased for the project, but Scott said the County had received $2 million from the New Mexico Department of Transportation for the project. 

Derkacs agreed. 

“The overarching issues is safety,” she said. “I think that has to be precedent. For that reason, I will support the construction…” 

Not everyone agreed. 

Williams said he is skeptical the absence of a connection between Entrada Drive and the Canyon Rim Trail poses a big safety concern. He added he was equally unsure about a claim made in the staff presentation that the underpass would assist in economic vitality of the Entrada Business Park.

Councilor David Reagor wondered why staff was prioritizing this particular section over other sections of the trail. 

Public Works Director Anne Laurent said all sections of the trail are being pursued with equal vigor. She pointed out other section of the trail are more complicated because they run along private property, so the County has to negotiate with property owners. The underpass, Laurent said, is feasible because the County owns the land, the funding is available and there is a safety issue. 

Ultimately, Scott, Derkacs, Izraelevitz and Council Chair Randall Ryti supported awarding the bid while Reagor, Robinson and Williams opposed. 

Approving charter and appointing members for Los Alamos Resiliency, Energy and Sustainability Task Force 

Council approved 6-1 with Reagor opposing a charter for the newly formed Los Alamos Resiliency, Energy and Sustainability Task Force. The main goal for the task force is to make recommendations to Council on how to reduce Los Alamos’ greenhouse emissions to zero. 

Council agreed to make a few minor revisions to the charter’s language. 

Robinson said he was excited to see the task force form. 

“I have great hope this task force will do good work … I think this will be a good one to help us really charter a path to being a 21st Century community,” he said. 

Reagor disagreed. 

He said the charter doesn’t look at the whole picture. There are destructive environmental practices going on throughout the world and in the U.S. and, “… greenhouse gases are really a small corner of what we do to the world.” 

Reagor further pointed out that solar panels and batteries come from materials mined from the earth, so they do have massive impacts on the planet.

“I think … the document is very narrow and not very environmentalist,” Reagor said.

In addition to passing the charter, Council appointed members to the task force. The members are: Steve Tobin, Heidi Rogers, Kelly Leonard, Suzie Havemann, Robert Gibson, Susan Barns, Elizabeth Daly, Charles Keller and Roy Micholetti.