COVID-19 vaccinations delivered to area residents exceed state rates

COVID-19 vaccinations are ahead of schedule in San Juan County. A large number of health care workers and first responders in San Juan County have received the first round of the two-shot vaccine.

Doses of the vaccine have arrived and been distributed to healthcare workers within San Juan Public Health, Utah Navajo Health System, Blue Mountain Hospital, and San Juan Health.

The Utah vaccination distribution plan prioritizes healthcare workers, including clinic, pharmacy, long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing staff.

The timeline anticipates that all these workers, as well as Emergency Medical Service workers, first responders and school staff, will receive the vaccine by the end of January.

San Juan Public Health Director Kirk Benge says all local agencies are assisting in the vaccine distribution, and they are slightly ahead of schedule due to the way in which the vaccine is shipped in minimum 100 dose quantities.

“For us to get an extra 100 doses, that goes a long way toward our non-hospital health care because we don’t have a lot of non-hospital associated healthcare workers in our community,” said Benge.

“Even if Salt Lake County were to get a thousand extra doses, that makes very little dent in their non-hospital healthcare.”

Utah Navajo Health System began offering the first dose of the vaccine to patients over 75 years of age on January 4.

“Our intention is to not let any vaccines sit in a fridge locally, for any reason,” said Benge, “so we’ve had coordination calls with [local health care providers].

“We’ve just been coordinating to try to reach out to our priority groups in order to start offering the vaccine as quickly as possible.”

It’s unknown if San Juan County will continue to vaccinate at a rate faster than the rest of the state. Benge says they will have ongoing conversations with state officials.

“One thing that I think remains to be seen will be if we will continue to get our allotted number of vaccines coming to us weekly, even if we’re getting a little bit ahead of schedule of other health departments,” said Benge, “or if there will be a preference that we divert those doses that could have come to us to other counties that might not have had such a head start.”

The most recent figures from San Juan Public Health show 1,508 total cases in the county since March. Ten percent of the county population have had the virus.

There are currently 204 active cases in the county.

In total, 139 local residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms. The 9.2 percent local hospitalization rate exceeds state and national rates, but has been dropping from rates near 15 percent earlier in the pandemic.

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