Several members of the Durango Business Improvement District have stepped up to offer vaccine incentives to encourage local residents to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Vaccine incentives have become increasingly popular across the nation and in local public health departments throughout Colorado. KSUT’s Sarah Flower talks with Liane Jollon, executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health Department about what their organization is offering

Interview Transcript:

Sarah Flower  00:00

Hi, I’m Sarah Flower with KSUT News. Today we are joined for our bi-monthly COVID-19 update with executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health Department, Liane Jollon.

Hi, Liane. I want our listeners to know, I think we were missed a little bit over the Memorial Day break. So on a programming note for all you listeners out there via, or maybe you’re listening to us live Mondays at 2:30. But schedule your calendars for every other week for now, when we’ll be giving you the latest COVID-19 update. It’s been a buzz around the nation, whether it’s free beer on the Fourth of July from the White House and Anheuser Busch, but bringing it here locally to specifically La Plata County, the vaccine incentives that San Juan Basin Public Health Department have been giving out in La Plata and Archuleta counties has been changing and shifting and growing rapidly. Let’s talk about it.

Liane Jollon  01:03

We really want to get as many people vaccinated as possible, because vaccine is how we are dropping the case rate, we’re keeping people safe and keeping people out of hospitals. And you know, we’re keeping businesses open, and we’re getting the economy back on track. So the more vaccines we have out there, the more dead ends the virus hits, we want the virus to hit a dead end and stop in its tracks and not move on to the next person. So vaccine is how we do that. And, you know, here locally, we’ve just had tons of support from businesses and you know, other entities saying how can we help? How can we get people out? Because, you know, there was a ton of people that really wanted their vaccine as soon as it was available to them. And there’s also other people whose lives are complicated. There’s a million things to do every day, and is today the best day to go in and get my shot. Lots of us have all kinds of competing pressures. And you know, today isn’t the right day. But because of these incentives and motivators, people are coming in. And that’s the whole point of this. It’s like to kind of sweeten the deal a little bit. Don’t put it off, do it right now because you’ll get something special on the way out the door. And you know, one of these special things is with the Business Improvement District of Durango. 

Sarah Flower  02:17

Oh what a transition Liane pro status on that zoom bombing us here today is Tim Walsworth, the executive director of the Business Improvement District of Durango. Tim, nice to have a guest on the show today.

Tim Walsworth  02:32

Always honored to be on with Liane and support the efforts of San Juan Basin Public Health.

Sarah Flower  02:38

Just as Liane mentioned, this vaccine incentive and getting businesses involved, some of which have taken a big hit in 2020, during this pandemic. Let’s talk about the Business Improvement District’s role in getting businesses to sign on for vaccine incentives.

Tim Walsworth  02:55

We’ve been supportive of all the things we’ve had to do whether we’ve liked them or not throughout this whole 14 to 16 month ordeal, right? And certainly this is what we’ve been waiting for for a long time, the ability to have a vaccination, right that frees everything up and opens everything up. And we’re seeing it impact our community tremendously already. And so we just wanted to support those efforts at the BID. So I put out an appeal to the close to 1000 businesses that we represent, and very quickly got enough responses to fill up a sheet of paper. And on this paper that people will get when they choose to start their vaccination series is just a set of coupons and discounts and deals at local businesses downtown and in the North Main district. And they add up to about 80 bucks. And so it’s just like Liane was saying, it’s just a little reward, a little incentive to get people over the hump and get that vaccination series started.

Sarah Flower  03:52

I’ve got to say, somebody like myself and my family who were throwing elbows in February to try to get a vaccine, I feel like this is like a group project that I’m not getting extra credit for, getting vaccinated early. But people who are maybe making this decision now are getting all the bonus points.

Tim Walsworth  04:12

Well, so there is more going on of course, at the state level, right? You know, this one’s nice, 80 bucks, you can also win a million dollars, just slightly different right, from the state. And so everybody who’s been vaccinated from day one right to now is entered in those trials. They just did the first drawing last Friday and a woman from Mead, a healthcare worker from Mead won. That was super cool to see.

Liane Jollon  04:33

I think speaking of extra credit, though, those of you who went out and got your vaccine as soon as you were eligible, you did get extra credit. You’ve had maybe five months of really feeling at ease that you have not only done your part but you’ve protected yourself, you’ve protected your friends and family and protected your community. And I know as soon as you get that shot, it feels like a ton of bricks come off of your shoulders with you know, oh my God, what am I going to do next. And then the first time you run into somebody that you haven’t seen in 16 months, and you can give them a hug, it is worth it. So the extra credit you got, Sarah is that you’ve been doing that for four or five months. There are people who are getting a little extra credit now, but that’s okay. Because this is how we get there as a community.

Sarah Flower  05:16

There was recently a report done by the Denver Post, which showed that the state as a whole, Colorado has not seen this rush of people who want to put their name in the hat to get vaccinated. Here locally in the counties San Juan Basin Public Health oversees, are these vaccine incentives helping push our vaccination numbers?

Liane Jollon  05:39

We think so, I mean, we don’t have a control group, because we’re only giving incentives here. So we can’t compare it to anything else. And we’re doing lots of different and fun incentives, right. And so, you know, what we know is that cases are going down and vaccine is controlling infection. So do we know you know, which incentive is working best? You know, we have people show up, you know, we have 500 people that have already gotten the coupons from the Business Improvement District, in downtown Durango. We’ve had hundreds of people get free beer, whether it’s in the Durango sites, or the our Archuleta sites, we’re doing some, you know, scratcher tickets in Archuleta County, which really supports schools and the great outdoors, which are really important for our corner of the state. So it’s just kind of building an ecosystem where we’re all headed in the right direction. And you know, the truth is, is La Plata County is a top 10 county in the state, Archuleta County is in the top third of counties in the state for Vax right now. So like I said, we don’t have a control group, we can’t compare to what it would be like if we weren’t doing these incentives. But we’re really proud that this community has come together, you know, Southwest Colorado is out getting vaccinated from starting in January, we were the leading region in the state. And we’re seeing that continue today, that people really want to control this pandemic, and get themselves safe.

Sarah Flower  07:01

Liane Jollon, Executive Director of San Juan Basin Public Health and joining us, a special guest appearance by Tim Walsworth, the executive director of the Business Improvement District. Is there anything else either of you would like to add to this week’s COVID-19 update?

Liane Jollon  07:15

I think just reminding people that, you know, vaccines are available right now, every single day in tons of locations around the community, right? We built this great ecosystem of providers, and we have the community clinics every single day, and we have mobile clinics going to different events. So we’re trying to make it really easy for people, because Colorado really wants to get to 75% of the population done by the Fourth of July. You know, we don’t know if this is going to be achievable in Colorado, but we’re sure as heck going to try, right, because this is the most important thing we can do to get our lives back on track. And we’re just like we said, we’re really proud of you know, we’re really proud of the communities that are served by San Juan Basin Public Health. We’re ahead of the game. We have more people vaccinated than studies show we should have vaccinated at this point. So we know people are coming together and doing this and we’re kind of, you know, foot on the gas through the next five weeks to see how far we can get into this

Sarah Flower  08:15

Tim, final thoughts?

Tim Walsworth  08:16

Well, ditto what Liane said. I am really proud of our community. It was hard, we all know, right? But you know, you look at the case counts that we had here and we kept things pretty well in check. And that’s because, overall, our community did what we needed to do when we needed to buckle down to stop this thing and slow it down. And it’s very similar with vaccine acceptance, but I do acknowledge just like Liane said, right, it’s hard for for everybody to work it into their lives. If you’re a true Durango-Tang working two or three jobs, right, like a lot of us do. You know, it might be really hard to find that time and so hopefully these incentives you know, will motivate people just to try to fit that into their busy schedules. And you know, a personal story, I was able to go see my aging parents in Atlanta who had been very sick, and I hadn’t seen them in forever. And that was awesome. I encourage everyone to give it a hard look. If you have questions, ask them. It’s okay to have questions and wonder about this or that but ask your doctor, ask your friends, call the health department and then make that appointment. Let us give you a little reward and get on the way to get healthy.

Sarah Flower  09:22

Liane and Tim thank you so much for your time today here on KSUT, for our COVID-19 update.