Apr. 13—A community-based COVID-19 vaccination clinic opened in the Siinto S. Wessman arena at the University of Wisconsin-Superior on Tuesday, April 13.
The site, operated by AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and is expected to provide up to 500 vaccines a day, depending on supply. During its opening week, the clinic will give about 230 doses per day, according to George Kowalski, program manager for AMI's Wisconsin clinics.
"I am really excited because we are one step closer to beating the virus," Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said at a news conference to mark the clinic's opening Tuesday. "We have to do everything we can to stop the spread. We know the last year has been filled with uncertainty, many times filled with chaos, but I'm proud to say that we are one step closer."
Wisconsin is leading the nation in administration of the vaccine, Barnes said. Over one-third of Wisconsinites have received at least one dose, including Barnes, who got his first dose last week. Nearly one-quarter of the state is fully vaccinated, including 70% of those age 65 and older.
"People are getting shots every day in this community, and now more people are going to get them," Superior Mayor Jim Paine said.
The clinic is opening at a time when COVID cases are rising. Douglas County Public Health Officer Kathy Ronchi said since January, the average new-case rate for the county was 20-30 per week. Last week, that more than doubled to 74.
"One way to stop that trend from continuing is to get vaccinated," Ronchi said.
As of early Tuesday afternoon, 600 people had signed up to get vaccinated at the Wessman Arena clinic.
"Having this site here at UWS allows the health department to do some of that other targeted outreach to people who are having trouble getting to the clinic," Ronchi said.
Anyone who works, lives or goes to school in Wisconsin can get vaccinated at the clinic, she said, including people from neighboring counties.
Kowalski encouraged people not to arrive early for appointments. It's OK if you come late, he said. He and Ronchi stressed the importance of making any scheduled vaccination appointments. The site will be administering the Pfizer vaccine.
"That vaccine has to be used within a certain amount of time, so it matters if you don't show up for your appointment," Ronchi said.
Visitors coming for a vaccine can park for free in the Wessman Arena lot. They should use the southwest door facing the parking lot to enter and exit the building; the front entrance will be locked.
Everyone will be screened as they enter the building. Appointments are expected to last about 20 minutes, which includes a 15-minute waiting period following the vaccination.
The best way to register is at vaccinate.wi.gov. For information or registration support, call 844-684-1064. People who are homebound due to health issues or are having difficulty getting to a vaccine clinic due to transportation or the type of work they do can call the Public Health COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 715-395-7336.
The Douglas County vaccination clinic is one of several being operated by AMI Expeditionary Healthcare through a collaboration with DHS and local partners. The locations are selected to address gaps in vaccine access and support vaccination efforts.
The Wessman Arena clinic is the first in Northwest Wisconsin. Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced Tuesday that the sixth community-based vaccination clinic in the state is scheduled to open in Barron County on Tuesday, April 20, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in Rice Lake.
The Douglas County site is expected to remain active through June.
"It's good to be able to help," UWS Chancellor Renee Wachter said. "If we can do that, we've met our mission."
UWS continues to offer free COVID testing for anyone age 5 and older from 2-6 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Markovich Health and Wellness Center. Registration is available at doineedacovid19test.com.
The site, which reopened Feb. 15, has been testing about 150 people per day, according to Director of Campus Recreation Krisi Patterson.
"That need is still there, so we're going to have that operation for the school year for the community," Patterson said. "We're doing our part."