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Gov. Whitmer Gov. Whitmer COURTESY PHOTO

Whitmer outlines next steps for expanded COVID-19 vaccine distribution

BY Wednesday, January 06, 2021 03:48pm

Michigan is moving into the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, allowing seniors and some essential frontline workers to receive doses starting Jan. 11, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday.

Residents over the age of 65 and workers that include police officers, first responders, frontline state and federal workers, correction facility staff, childcare providers and preschool-12th grade teachers across all Michigan counties will have access to COVID-19 vaccinations starting next week.

State officials cited the high percentage of COVID-19 deaths occurring among residents 65 and older to accelerate vaccine distribution.

“The quicker we act to distribute this vaccine, the quicker we can reduce the strain on the health care system,” Whitmer said during a Wednesday press conference.

Eligible essential workers will be notified by their employers about vaccine clinic dates and locations while individuals are encouraged to contact their local health department about availability and appointments.

Over the past three weeks, the state has received more than 520,000 vaccine doses and administered more than 152,000. County health departments in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties have administered more than 19,500, according to state data. Whitmer said the state has set a goal to use 90 percent of distributed vaccines within seven days of receiving them.

Michigan Health and Hospital Association CEO Brian Peters said expanding access to vaccines is an “important step toward ending the pandemic.”

“As hospitals near fulfillment of vaccinating all willing and eligible healthcare workers, now is the appropriate time to ramp up and vaccinate more Michiganders, more quickly,” Peters said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Whitmer indicated Wednesday that statewide restrictions on indoor dining at restaurants and bars likely wouldn’t be lifted before a Jan. 15 deadline currently in place. Though key metrics including case numbers and hospitalizations have continued to drop over the past month, test positivity rates have inched back up from 8.2 percent late last month to 9.6 percent.

“Overall I am concerned we may be seeing a slowing of progress we were seeing over the holidays,” said Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “Everyone still needs to play their part.”

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