More than half of the city of Grand Junction’s staff, including the police and fire departments, are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines during the 1B phase that is currently underway.

City Manager Greg Caton said about 400 of its employees can get the vaccine in the current phase with the first doses being administered this week. He said most of those are first responders or workers in the city’s wastewater and water utilities, which are considered essential services.

While first responders were an obvious inclusion in the early phases of the vaccine rollout, Caton said they worked with Mesa County Public Health to allow access to the vaccine for the workers at its utilities.

“We introduced the question of are there other employees that could fit in that,” Caton said. “Critical infrastructure was determined to be also included. So our water and wastewater staff members have been included in this phase.”

The city has had individual cases of COVID-19, including in staff in its utilities. Caton said none of the cases caused a disruption in service, but that it was “tight.”

“We don’t have a lot of depth on the bench in a number of areas in those positions and it truly is critical service delivery and critical infrastructure,” Caton said. “So we were really pleased with the outcome of the conversation with the Health Department in that regard.”

In Phase II, which is set to roll out this spring, the state will provide access to the vaccines to ensure “continuity of local government.” Caton said it is still too early to tell when those vaccines will be available and which positions will be eligible. However, he said they are developing a list of critical positions and will begin conversations with Mesa County Public Health.

“We have a document that we refer to as the COOP Plan, the Continuation of Operations Plan, that will help provide guidance for our continuation of operations here,” Caton said. “That’s what this is really about.”

Ultimately, Caton said the positions that end up being eligible for the vaccine at that time will depend on the supply to Mesa County. He said there are a number of other agencies that will also be seeking vaccines and the city wants to be in the appropriate place in line.

While employees continue to provide services to city residents and await their turn for a vaccine, Caton said he has been proud of how well they have protected each other and the community throughout the pandemic. “We’ve been so strong and proactive on our policies including requiring wearing of face coverings, distancing, teleworking, separating employee work groups,” Caton said. “We have not had a case of employee to employee (transmission). Furthermore, we’ve not had a case of employee to community (transmission).”

For information on the vaccine rollout in Mesa County, visit health.mesacounty.us.