OMAHA, Neb. — To prepare for mass COVID-19 vaccination efforts, the Douglas County Health Department has temporarily closed down their STD clinic. The clinic performs thousands of STD tests each month.
When the COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available to the general public, the Douglas County Health Department will be one of the locations individuals can go to get a vaccine.
"We decided to close down the STD clinic primarily because we are offering COVID vaccination clinics and that requires all hands on deck," Douglas County Health Department STD prevention and control supervisor Leah Casanave said.
The clinic staff has been reassigned to help with vaccinations, but the change will mean less access to STD testing.
"Douglas County is pretty interesting. It's tended pretty high on the STD rate, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea, over the years. We've been one of the highest counties in the country at various points," Andi Curry Grubb, Nebraska Executive Director of Planned Parenthood North Central States said.
Before the pandemic, the entire country was on track to have its highest STD rates ever. However, STD rates dropped dramatically in 2020 despite projections. Experts believe a lack in testing and clinic closings created that sharp downturn.
"A drop of like that makes it a little bit scary to think about what we might be looking at once the pandemic is over and folks can fully access testing the way they're used to," Curry Grubb said.
To avoid a health crisis within a pandemic, Curry Grubb says it's vital people still get tested. Planned Parenthood offers STD testing and understands why the DCHD had to shut down their clinic.
"They need to focus on COVID and we're happy to pick up some of the slack as much as we can and make sure folks get what they need," Curry Grubb said.
The health department is working with multiple community partners, like Planned Parenthood, to still provide testing and treatment for STD's - all while preparing for a whole new challenge of vaccinating the general public for COVID-19.
The Douglas County Health Department is offering to mail out free HIV test kits and other resources despite the closing of their clinic.