COVINGTON, Ga. — County officials are working to have a COVID-19 vaccination site available in Newton by mid-April and will seek federal funds to cover the local cost of opening and operating it.
The Newton County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted to seek a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, also known as FEMA, that would reimburse the county for a temporary vaccination clinic.
County Manager Lloyd Kerr said he anticipated a one-time cost of $36,000 to set up the clinic and monthly costs of $90,000 for personnel and equipment.
Money would be taken from the county’s General Fund budget and replaced with proceeds of the FEMA grant, Kerr said.
“We will have to spend some money but we will be reimbursed 100% for it,” Kerr said.
Kerr said he wanted to begin the process of applying for federal reimbursement funds so that a clinic can be in operation by mid-April and operate into July “and possibly as long as September.”
“According to the health department, the mass vaccination centers probably would not be necessary past mid- or late summer,” Kerr said. “This grant would be for a temporary center.”
He said he was working to finalize an agreement with the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments to provide the vaccines.
Kerr and Chairman Marcello Banes were working with the same agency on finding suitable locations, Kerr said.
“Once we nail that down we’ll have some more definite information,” he told commissioners.
Kerr said at least two indoor, privately owned sites were being considered after no county government-owned sites “met the necessary requirements of the health department.”
“We identified a couple of commercial sites that we could do short-term leases on,” he said. “That’s most likely what we’ll do.”
Commissioner J.C. Henderson said he was able to get vaccinated Tuesday at a site in Monroe that was located in a building he described as a shed.
“If you look around the state and to other counties other than Newton, they set up real nice tents,” he said.
“I don’t think we need to be spending a whole lot of money on just having somewhere where people will just sit up and get a shot in the arm,” Henderson said. “It wasn’t painless but it wasn’t bad.”
However, Kerr said the health department wanted an enclosed site.
“We’re working closely with them on this,” he said.
He also said he was working on a contract agreement that will include a lease agreement for the chosen location, and for equipment including computers, tables and chairs and other furnishings and equipment.
Newton County has been without a vaccination site since Jan. 18 when Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments moved it from the county health department building in Covington to the Rockdale Career Academy and, later, Springfield Baptist Church in Conyers.
Since then, the state has opened eligibility for the vaccine to more Georgians, including educators and other professions and those state residents at least 55 years old.
FEMA has made grants available for leasing facilities or equipment to administer and store the vaccine; staffing and training support; providing personal protective equipment and other administrative supplies; and use of technology to register and track vaccine administration, according to information from the agency.