The Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library could deliver more than reading materials soon.
Library system officials say that they're donating transportation resources to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine throughout Hamilton County to help bring relief to thousands of residents who are projected to receive the vaccination beginning this month.
“We’re built for this,” Holbrook Sample, chief technology and logistics officer of the library, tells CityBeat. “We deliver materials all over the county. Our drivers know the county very well.”
The library will provide six vehicles and five drivers in the event of an emergency to transport the vaccine to distribution sites throughout the district. These drivers are well-versed in developing fast, safe routes across Hamilton County, Sample says.
Matthew Todd, the library’s shipping and receiving manager, is one of those drivers. He has also spearheaded this program’s logistics and serves as the direct mediary between the library and Hamilton County Public Health. The transportation resources will be available on stand-by during the library’s regular business hours, Todd says. Once he receives a request from the health department, he will direct either himself or another driver to complete the vaccine pick-up and drop-off.
“I'm just hoping that it helps us get through this,” Todd says. “It's very important to me that we're doing this, and I'm just glad we're able to contribute.”
The library will assist in transporting both COVID-19 vaccines—one created by Pfizer-BioNTech, the other by Moderna—that were recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. While they haven’t transported any vaccines yet, the library staff are fully prepared for the call to action, Todd says.
Sample adds that those who use their library's transportation service typically are those who are most at-risk for COVID-19.
“The first people to get the vaccinations in the county—and I guess this is true all over the country—are people in congregate-living like nursing homes and people who are not able to get out of their house,” Sample says. “We serve those people actively.”
According to figures released by Gov. Mike DeWine on Jan. 21, Hamilton County had a COVID-19 case count of 5,685 for a population of 817,473. As of Jan. 24, it is the only purple county on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System map, indicating "severe exposure and spread."
Ohio has begun Phase 1B of its vaccination plan, which is a multi-week schedule that prioritizes vaccination of citizens 65 or older, those with congenital or developmental disorders and those who work in-person at K-12 schools.
Todd, who also represents the library on the Hamilton County Emergency Response team, says finding ways that the library can assist public health has been part of the managerial duties since 2012.
Sample explains that the library was approached by the health department in 2012 to create a partnership that would facilitate library resources to be used in case of emergency. It was a preparedness strategy that eventually came into full fruition during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was perfect. It was actual preparedness, and I'm glad that we live in a county and operate a library in a county that had the foresight to be prepared,” Sample says.
This initiative is one of several that the library has created during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sample says the library partnered with UC Health to administer COVID-19 tests to 2,424 community members from October to December of 2020, and the library’s transportation system was also utilized late last year to deliver PPE (personal protective equipment) such as hand sanitizer, plastic shields and generators across Hamilton County.
“It’s just kind of another dimension on the library's work in the county on the coronavirus,” Sample said. “It echoes what we do all the time.”
For more information, visit the library's website.