Senior citizens had to wait outside in the cold for as long as two hours Saturday to get a COVID-19 vaccination at the North Platte High building.
As many as 200 people were standing in line, waiting to get inside, when John Kahl, 82, and his 78-year-old wife arrived at 11:30 a.m. The line reached from the entrance to the east end of the building, he said.
The Kahls were scheduled for vaccinations at 11:45 a.m. They wanted to be early. They expected they would get inside when they arrived and were not prepared to wait in line.
The temperature was about 35 degrees with a northerly breeze and the humidity was 65-70%, according to the National Weather Service in North Platte.
Some people in the line were sitting in chairs, wrapped in blankets. Kahl said the parking lot was pretty full so they had to park some distance away.
Kahl has back trouble and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.)
When they got to the line and assessed the situation, his wife told him to go back to the car and wait while she held their place in line. Two hours or so later, she came to get him, thanks to other people who held their places in line for them.
Once inside it was warmer, although the challenges continued. Vaccines were administered on the stage of the performing arts theater, so Kahl had to get up the stairs into the theater, and from there, up the stairs to the stage.
He usually uses a walker but carried a cane Saturday because he didn’t expect the wait on the stairs, his daughter Yvette Troyer said.
Kahl has fluids in his legs and feet from COPD. He said it hurts to walk on flat ground. Other people in line helped him up the stairs into the auditorium. From there, he walked down the aisle about halfway to the stage, but then he needed a rest. He said the line was moving slowly, but at one point it sped up. He thinks because the workers quit asking interview questions, which seemed to be taking a lot of time.
Workers helped him up the stairs onto the stage and he finally got his shot. After the shot, patients are kept for 15 minutes or so to see if they have any negative reactions. He and his wife got back home around 4:30 p.m., he said.
Yvette was still irate on Monday, as were several others who contacted the Bulletin. Yvette called the WCDHD Monday and said she spoke to Executive Director Shannon Vanderheiden. She said Vanderheiden cited an agreement with the school district to use the high school for emergency COVID-19 purposes. That didn’t impress Yvette.
“These are the same people – seniors — who the health department tells to stay inside and not go out,” she said. “It was cold, they waited for hours and there was no way to socially distance in the line. Inside, workers were warm and they had a bathroom.”
Vanderheiden reportedly told Yvette that her parents had the option to use the back door of the auditorium and avoid the stairs, but the Kahls didn’t get the message.
“I didn’t see anyone giving options to use the side door,” Kahl said. “There was no one out there explaining things.”
The health district did not respond Monday afternoon to the Bulletin’s request for comment.