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Pandemic pessimists and oasis optimists alike have reason to dig into their views.

COVID-19 continues to ravage the West Valley, with a stunning acceleration of the spread over the last week.

West Valley coronavirus numbers surged far past the marker of 100 cases per 100,000 in a one-week period that is considered “substantial spread.” Litchfield Park and Waddell topped 800 cases per 100,000, Buckeye and Goodyear went over 900 cases per 100,000, and Avondale and Tolleson breached 1,000 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 over the last week.

The West Valley cities showed a 50% increase compared to the previous week, according to Maricopa County figures.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Arizona has been the state with the highest spread in the country — yet the West Valley is many times above the state average is 125 cases per 100,000 in the last seven days. The national average is 71 cases per 100,000.

While the deadly disease — more than 11,000 in Arizona have died from COVID-19, with 4,700 deaths in Maricopa County — rages, an oasis in the form of vaccines has arrived.

Health care workers and emergency responders began receiving COVID-19 vaccines in mid-December. The second group, including those over 75, started getting vaccine shots at State Farm Stadium, Abrazo West and some pharmacies last week.

This week, plans are in place to expand to those 65 and older.

Jodi Castle, who lives in Goodyear and works at Dignity Health Emergency Care in Glendale, received the first of the two-dose regimen two days before Christmas.

“After that dose, I just had a slight sore arm,” she said.

She got the second shot Jan. 12.

“I was fine the first day. But the next day I woke up feeling feverish, temp of only 99.6, so higher than usual but not a fever,” she said.

She said she had a slight headache and body aches, which she attributes to side effects of the vaccine.

“One of my ER doctors says it’s normal to feel that as it’s your immune system kicking in to combat what it thinks is the virus,” she said.

It’s a small price to pay for potential defense from the disease, she said.

“The ERs and hospitals have been so overwhelmed. We are exhausted, so I’m very excited to be a part of the solution,” Castle said.

She noted she had COVID-19 in July. “I recovered just fine in a couple weeks, thankfully, as so many don’t,” she said.

The Arizona Department of Health Services said it will offer vaccine doses to adults 65 and older starting Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Registration is required. Appointments can be made at podvaccine.azdhs.gov.

As 80% of deaths have come in the 65-and-older population, health officials are optimistic vaccines will protect the elderly.

At Glencroft Center for Modern Aging in Glendale, the largest continuing care retirement community in Arizona, due to the post-holiday spike, “We have opened a COVID isolation ward and have a handful of recovering patients there, and the hospitals are asking us to take more, but none have been infected in our building,” said Scott McClintock.

But, the chief strategy officer added, “What’s really different now though is the availability of vaccines. On Jan. 7 and 12, all of our long-term care residents and most of our staff were vaccinated, giving us clear optimism about soon returning to a more normal life without the ever-present fear of COVID.”

As one of the first five points of delivery (POD), Abrazo West in Goodyear has been a key player in the vaccine rollout.

“We are very proud of the Abrazo West Campus staff, providers, partners and volunteers who helped operationalize the vaccination POD,” said Abrazo West CEO Christina Oh. 

“Our preparations helped ensure that those who were registered for Phase 1A first dose vaccinations went through the process as efficiently as possible. The POD reopened Jan. 11 for second doses and the initial Phase 1B vaccinations for those who registered online. It has been quite busy, and we commend everyone for their commitment to helping at our site. The volunteers and staff delivering vaccines across the Valley are truly a part of history.”

County health officials stress they are waiting for more supplies of the vaccine — and, as both Pfizer and Moderna shots are being administered, to make sure first and second shots match.

“Individuals can sign up as soon as there are appointments that are available in the 21 to 28 days out from when they received their first dose,” said Ron Coleman, a Maricopa County spokesman. “So they should look at their vaccine card and see what date is listed (to) return and the manufacturer of vaccine they had; be sure to choose a site that offers the same type.”

While a handful of pharmacies are now providing vaccines, plans are for a rollout with hundreds of pharmacies giving shots  — but it all depends on supplies being doled out by the federal government.

For first and second shots, Coleman said, “Appointments are being opened up as more vaccine becomes available. Maricopa County continues to work with community partners to make more locations available.”

In the first few days of the 1B vaccinations, more than 12,000 received shots at State Farm Stadium.

“This is positive, encouraging news as we scale up our vaccination capacity in Arizona,” said Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ. “It’s clear that Arizonans are excited about the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. We’re working around the clock to meet that demand. 

“As the federal government ships more vaccine doses to Arizona, we will have more vaccine sites and appointments available soon.”

Several who posted comments on the West Valley View’s Facebook page said side effects were similar to a slight flu.

After a first shot, Jayneil Ingels reported “fatigue, very sore arm, aches, headache within 30 min. Lingered for three days. Second shot, felt great for 12 hours then chills, aches, sweating. I woke up a little better but muscles still tired.”

Holly Capp said after her first dose, “not one single side effect.” After the second shot, “Had the side effects that were expected. Chills, headache, body aches, joint pain. Wasn’t fun but only lasted one day. Not a big deal.”

Her recommendation: “Take the next day off, if you can. … Still worth every minute of the discomfort! Get it!”

Ditto for Rainy Baldwin-stanton. After her first shot, “Honestly, I feel amazing! I get my second vaccine on (Jan. 23). If I could get it now I would. I feel like such a huge weight is slowly being lifted.”

Starting Tuesday, Jan. 19, those in groups prioritized for vaccination can register for available appointments at State Farm Stadium and multiple other vaccination sites at podvaccine.azdhs.gov.

Information about all vaccination sites across Arizona can be found at azhealth.gov/findvaccine. 

Those without computer access or needing extra help registering can call 1-844-542-8201 to be connected with someone who can assist. 

A note from the state: “You can use the patient portal at podvaccine.azdhs.gov to make an appointment for a relative in a prioritized group, such as someone 75 or older.

Those scheduled for vaccination will need to show identification upon arrival to the vaccination site demonstrating they qualify for phases 1A or priority 1B.

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination, visit azdhs.gov/COVID19Vaccines.