COVID Schools

Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ have a lot of fine print for the county to agree to before FEMA and the county can set up vaccination clinics for low-income and minority residents.

Pima County officials were scheduled to meet with Arizona Department of Health Services and FEMA to discuss contract terms of Pima County's federal POD today, according to an April 16 memo from County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.

“What the contract does is basically delegate all authority to Pima County, so Pima County would be responsible for the operations, the set up, the tear down of that and give them the authority to work directly with FEMA,” said ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ in a briefing Friday.

In the April 13 memo, Huckelberry said they are in the process of reviewing the requirements for the community vaccination center (CVC), but that “some terms and conditions appear to be particularly draconian.”

Under the agreement released by the county on April 13, the state makes clear “neither the State nor any agency thereof, shall have any responsibilities, obligations, or liability pertaining to any CVC to be developed, organized, and operated in Pima County.” The state also requires the county to provide FEMA with a plan for a registration system (which the county will be solely responsible for creating) before opening the federal POD for vaccine registrations and “that system shall not utilize any similar system created or utilized by the State.”

Christ said the state does not have the resources as they open two new sites in Arizona—the Westworld location in Scottsdale and the Northern Arizona University site—to allow the county to utilize their vaccination system.

“The onboarding and the deployment of that for a State POD site is a significant workload on the department,” said Christ. She also noted the onboarding and maintenance concerns were listed in their March 26 letter to FEMA, where the state announced they would allow the federal POD in Pima County, if their requirements were met.

The contract, like the March 26 letter, placed sole responsibility on Pima County for staffing, resources, and funding and indicated the county could not ask the State for help.

The contract also states that the state will not be held responsible for any losses, damages or claims, and “if the State incurs any losses, damages, or claims arising out of the actions or inactions associated with the CVC, it shall be entitled to reimbursement thereof from Pima County and may take such payment as an offset against payments due to Pima County.”

In the agreement, the state also reserves the right to revoke the contract “without notice, in the event the State believes it is in the best interest of the State to do so. The State may also decline to extend the initial operating period in its sole discretion with no explanation whatsoever.”

After Huckelberry characterized some of the contract terms as  “draconian,” Christ said FEMA has specific requirements for their PODs and “a lot of it was just taken from what FEMA expects the state to sign on to. We just replaced State with Pima County, in a lot of that language.”

In the April 16 memo, Huckelberry notes that the language in the agreement previously shared to the board is "very different" from the agreement he saw on Thursday when county officials met with ADHS. 

Huckelberry said he is uncertain of the launch of the federal POD, but predicts it will likely be open on the third or fourth week of April.            

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