Vaccine pace slows, mask wearing drops, quarantine rate up

Even though more than two-thirds of San Juan County residents are not yet fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, the interest in vaccinations appears to be dropping.

“Interest is so sparse right now,” said Mike Moulton, the interim director of the San Juan Public Health District. “We are not doing many here at the health department.”

According to the Utah Department of Health, 35.4 percent of San Juan County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 32.6 percent are considered fully vaccinated. 

Utah Navajo Health Systems (UNHS) has administered more than 10,000 vaccinations since the roll-out began in December 2020. UNHS has offered the Pfizer vaccine, which requires special deep freezing technology and requires two doses.

After sponsoring a number of large drive-thru clinics, UNHS is scheduling vaccination appointments through their clinics.  

San Juan Public Health has administered more than 2,600 Moderna vaccines, which also requires two doses. These vaccines can be scheduled through clinics and the San Juan Public Health office.

In addition to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, a single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine is also available. It was recently reauthorized after a brief wait.

Main Street Drug in Monticello is offering the Johnson and Johnson vaccines. Pharmacist Tim Young said, “We have been busy since [the Johnson and Johnson vaccine] came back and hope people continue to come in.”

Young said they have administered up to ten vaccines a day and recently received an additional 100 doses.

“If anyone is hesitant, call or come in,” said Young. “I would be glad to talk you through it. I believe it is very safe. People at a high risk should 100 percent get vaccinated.”

Moulton said that two primary groups of people have not been vaccinated, including those who are vaccine hesitant and those “who are not against it, but are just fine waiting.”

Young expressed concern that it may be more difficult to find the vaccine in the future. “You have to use the vaccine quickly once it is opened,” said Young, who added that health care entities concerned about wasting may be hesitant to carry vaccine inventory.

In related issues, a growing number of parents with students in the San Juan School District have provided medical exemptions for their children to avoid the mask mandate.

The San Juan School Board ruled on April 14 that parents could sign the medical exemptions. Within one week of the ruling, the number of students with mask exemptions went from 12 to 278 in the Blanding schools. Similarly, the number of students with mask exemptions grew from zero to 53 in the Monticello schools.

For the school year to date, approximately 90 students and 20 school staff members in the entire school district have tested positive for COVID-19. Students have been quarantined more than 500 times during the school year.

There have been about ten positive cases in the schools in the past two weeks and 48 students at Monticello High School have been placed on quarantine over the past two weeks.

The latest figures show 34 active cases of COVID-19 in San Juan County, including 13 cases in the Blanding area and six in the Montezuma Creek/Aneth area.

The death toll continues at 37 county residents since the pandemic hit in March 2020. There has not been a recorded fatality in several weeks.

The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be in the closing phases, but it is still uncertain how long the virus will continue to impact the area.

San Juan Record

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