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Governor Cox announces changes designed to speed up vaccine rollout

State leaders believe Utah may start getting enough doses to make COVID-19 vaccines available for everyone who wants one by April or May. (PHOTO: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Health officials say the state’s COVID-19 infection rate has spiked, dramatically, thanks to holiday get-togethers.  Governor Cox says the state’s vaccine rollout still isn’t happening as quickly as he would like, so changes are being made.

On Friday, the Utah Department of Health announced an additional 3,793 cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s rolling seven-day average up to 3,051, which is a major jump from last week average of 2,371.  Plus, the rolling rate of positive cases has reached 32.7%, a dramatic increase from last week’s 26.8%.

Health officials say people are feeling optimistic about the vaccine, but too many of us are letting our guards down and not doing what we can to prevent the spread of the virus.

Governor Spencer Cox says there have been nearly 90,000 doses of the COVID-19 distributed so far, which isn’t nearly as many as the state was expecting by this time.  Moving forward, local health departments will be taking the lead in the vaccine rollout.  Governor Cox says those agencies are better equipped to deal with a mass vaccination than hospitals would be.

 “They have the ability to vaccinate a minimum of 50,000 people per week, with a capacity of up to 100,000 people per week,” he says.  “We feel very confident they will easily be able to meet that 50,000 per week threshold.”

On Friday, Cox signed executive orders designed to speed up the rollout.  Some of his orders include…

  • Health officials and pharmacies partnering with the state have to give every long-term care facility resident the first dose of the vaccine by January 23rd.
  • By 7 a.m. every morning, every agency has to report how many vaccines they’ve distributed in the past 24 hours. The vaccines have to be given within the week they’re received, and agencies that don’t meet that goal will have their allocations reduced and their extra doses redistributed.
  • On Monday, January 11th, teachers will be eligible to get the vaccine, but the state is asking schools to prioritize teachers by age and comorbidities.
  • On Monday, January 18th, everyone over the age of 70 will be eligible to be vaccinated. People will have to schedule an appointment through their local health department.

 

Cox hopes that everyone in the general population will be able to get their first dose of the vaccine by April.

“We believe that by making these changes and being able to exhaust our supply of vaccine, that will make us eligible for more vaccines down the road,” Cox says.  “It’s hard to argue that we should be getting more when we’re not using the vaccine we have already received.”

President-Elect Joe Biden has announced his administration will release all COVID-19 vaccines to speed up the process.  If that happens, Cox says the state’s facilities will be ready to accept the influx of medicine.

“We will be ready.  We will be prepared for that,” he says.

 

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