Utah school districts prepare to vaccinate teachers and staff

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SALT LAKE CITY – Utah reported 1,484 new cases of COVID-19 and four more deaths on Monday, as health officials prepare to start vaccinating teachers and school staff in the state this week as part of of Governor Spencer Cox’s plan to speed up vaccine delivery.

There have been 103,547 coronavirus vaccines administered in Utah, according to a Utah Department of Health investigation, 738 more than reported Sunday. The new governor said on Friday that the vaccination rate in the state was “unacceptable” and announced that local health districts would oversee the distribution.

Cox has asked school districts and health agencies to prioritize teachers for the vaccine who are older or have underlying health issues.

“I know there’s a lot of anticipation,” said Trevor Warner, spokesperson for the Davis County Health Department, where the drive-thru vaccinations for high-risk teachers and school staff invited by the Davis School District appointments are scheduled to begin Tuesday morning at the Legacy Event Center in Farmington.

Appointment shots will also be available Friday and Saturday for teachers and staff in the Davis School District 55 and older, and Warner said up to 1,600 could be vaccinated each day. The Davis School District said clinics will continue based on age until February 6, and those eligible will be notified when it is their turn to register.

“As a reminder, vaccination is not a condition of employment. This is an opportunity that the health department is able to provide, ”said Christopher Williams, director of communications and operations for the school district, in an email to employees Friday that included a promise of updates. weekly.

In Salt Lake and Utah counties, vaccines will be distributed among school districts based on student enrollment. The shots will be fired at rotating clinics over the next eight weeks, starting Wednesday with the Murray School District in Salt Lake County and the Nebo and Provo school districts in Utah County.

Larry Madden, acting superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District, said in an email to employees that vaccines will be distributed based on age, starting with those 55 or older and that health concerns or d other factors would not be part of the prioritization process.

“However, we do anticipate that all employees will have the opportunity to receive the vaccine in the coming weeks and appreciate your help in making this process as smooth as possible,” Madden said, adding that there will be waiting lists. for weekly clinic appointments. held Thursdays at West and Highland High Schools.

The Utah County Alpine School District began registering teachers and staff over the age of 60 on Monday, those deemed at high risk of contracting the virus who can register on Tuesday and all employees on Wednesday. The shots begin in this neighborhood on Saturday.

Lori Buttars, spokesperson for Weber-Morgan’s health department, said there had already been “a lot of interest” from teachers, who were identified as a priority for vaccinations by the government last month. then. Gary Herbert. Herbert said he hoped to “minimize the ping-pong effect” of moving from in-person to online lessons due to outbreaks.

Buttars said vaccinations for the 8,000 employees in Ogden, Morgan and Weber school districts would begin on Tuesday.

Educators follow healthcare workers in frontline hospitals, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, emergency service providers and first responders. Utah hospitals in Salt Lake City received the first doses of the vaccine in mid-December, as health officials braced for the surge in cases after the holidays.

From January 18, all Utahns aged 70 or over can be vaccinated.

Renewed emphasis on testing

Another 4,737 people have been tested for the deadly virus in Utah, bringing the total tested in the state to more than 1.8 million, according to the Department of Health update on Monday. The seven-day moving averages for positive tests are 3,118 per day, and a further high 30.5% for the percentage of positive lab tests.

Also on Monday, the state’s health department said free rapid testing for COVID-19 was continuing statewide, including at new sites in Garfield, Iron, Kane, Millard and Morgan counties. . Sites are chosen on the basis of high positivity rates, with little testing previously done, sampling of untreated wastewater, among other data.

The tests are available to everyone, even to those who have no symptoms. Utahns can register online at bit.ly/2X66scM, where information is also available on over 30 sites and their hours of operation. Registration can also be completed on site.

Results are emailed in an encrypted file from [email protected] and may take several hours after the test is finished to appear, the state health department said, suggesting they be opened on a computer rather than a phone. Those who do not receive any results or have difficulty opening the email should call 385-273-7878 for assistance.

Rapid antigenic tests administered are less sensitive, so a person who tests negative with symptoms or tests positive without symptoms is referred for follow-up testing. The goal of testing clinics is to identify people with the virus more quickly, especially those who may not be aware they are infected, to help slow the spread.

There are currently 554 people hospitalized for COVID-19, and the virus has put nearly 12,000 Utahns in hospital since the pandemic began last March. Utah’s coronavirus death toll has now reached 1,396, with four more deaths reported on Monday:

• A man from Beaver County, aged 65 to 84, hospitalized at the time of his death.

• A man from Utah County, aged 45 to 64, hospitalized at the time of his death.

• A woman from Utah County, aged 45 to 64, hospitalized at the time of her death.

• A woman from Salt Lake County, aged 65 to 84, hospitalized at the time of her death.

Contributing: Marjorie cortez

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