During a meeting Wednesday night, the Dubuque County Health Department detailed its vaccine program and plans — a focus which critics deemed more worthy than a proposed mask mandate extension.

The meeting of the county Board of Health originally was supposed to be the venue of a public hearing on the board’s plan to extend the countywide face covering mandate before it sunsets March 1.

Since, the Board of Health met again and amended its proposal — responding to preferences voiced by county supervisors and mayors of smaller cities — to include an end date of June 15 and/or the completion of Phase 1B prioritized groups for vaccination. The public hearing for that meeting therefore was pushed back a week for proper publication of the notice.

But several members of the public attended the meeting virtually to voice their opposition to the extension even as amended.

Sageville Mayor Wayne Kenniker, a consistent critic of the county’s mandate, called it a burden and distraction from the vaccination program, which he also criticized in its current form.

“The mask mandate is like swimming across a river with a boulder in their arms,” he told board members. “We have some pretty good indicators of what’s really going on around us.”

Kenniker said the current vaccination strategies by the Dubuque County COVID-19 Incident Management Team were too confusing and complicated. He also warned that if a “solid” plan is not in place when more doses were allotted, Dubuque County might run into trouble with the state’s 80% weekly administration benchmark.

Even so, County Health Department Director Patrice Lambert detailed what the county can expect in next week’s 2,340-dose allotment from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Of those, 654 will go to UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital — 300 for residents 65 and older and 354 for employees of Hormel, the first front-line workers to be scheduled. Hartig Drug pharmacies will get 600 for individuals with disabilities and those in assisted living — all 65 and older. Another 498 will go to Medical Associates Clinics and 198 to Grand River Medical Group, both for 65 and older patients.

MercyOne Dubuque Medical Center will receive 198 doses for the area’s religious communities. Lastly, 192 doses will be reserved for Visiting Nurse Association to administer to any school or child care workers left after the last two weeks.

“All of our vaccine providers have already started making contact so that administration can begin as soon as the vaccine is in our hands in Dubuque County,” Lambert told the board.

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