The Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show later this month at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds will temporarily displace the mass COVID vaccination clinic that had been set up there since late January.
Geoff Hinds, director of the fairgrounds, said at the time the clinic had the top priority at the venue for as long as it was necessary.
“We’ve been working with public health on the clinic with the understanding that the Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show has had a long-standing, multi-year agreement with Deschutes County Fair & Expo,” he said.
Hinds said the location was needed for the Sportsmen’s Show to be able to provide the space for social distancing.
“There is no other ability to find another venue for this event because it’s utilizing every other venue on the property,” he said. “We really have no ability to accommodate it in another format.”
The Sportsmen’s Show will start taking over the fairgrounds on March 9th ahead of its four-day run between the 11th-14th.
Molly Wells Darling, the deputy incident commander for the COVID incident management team, said they’ll continue at the fairgrounds until March 8th depending on how much vaccine supply they’re given.
“We usually find out Thursday evening, and from there that guides how we will set up our clinics, how we set up our dosing,” Wells Darling said.
They’ll be back at the fairgrounds on the 15th and ready to resume the mass clinic on the 16th.
In the meantime, county health will “move operations out into the community” through pop-up clinics.
She said they’re not looking at it as a setback for the vaccination efforts in the region.
“I think we can look at this as an opportunity,” she said. “We have vulnerable populations that we need to be reaching out to, so this is offering us a period of time to for us to really focus on those vulnerable populations.”
Wells Darling said they’re still developing an appointment plan for the pop-up clinics, but it likely will utilize the county’s vaccination interest forms.
A gun show was held at the fairgrounds last month, but that set-up didn’t interfere with the clinic’s operations.
The director said the safety of the community is the most important priority for the fairgrounds.
“If it came down to the needs of public health, they would outweigh many of the other needs that exist,” Hinds said. “As we understand, this won’t sacrifice the ability to provide vaccines to our community. Public health will utilize other formats and other locations and channels to be able to do that.”
The Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show typically has been one of the fairground’s biggest draws – second only to the county fair itself.
It was among the first big events canceled last year when COVID started to arrive in Oregon.
This year, the event is returning with limited crowds and social distancing efforts in place.
The mass vaccination clinic at the fairgrounds was buzzing early on as it worked to quickly vaccinate health care workers and the region’s school teachers and childcare providers.
In recent weeks though, the supply of vaccines hasn’t been able to keep up with the number of people eligible to get one.
This week the county has about 2,300 vaccines available while some 40,000 Deschutes County residents age 65+ are now eligible.
Vaccination efforts are expected to increase in the coming weeks after state health officials promised “game-changing” shipments from the federal government.
“I do think this can be a very positive thing we can get vaccines out to different areas of our communities and helps us focus in different ways,” Wells Darling said.