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State and local officials promise details on next phase of virus vaccinations

State and local officials promise details on next phase of virus vaccinations

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Moderna vaccine arrives for retirement home residents

Walgreens pharmacist Reetika Puri, left, draws a vaccine for Philip Moore, 100, who receives his dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in the Cottages of Lake St. Louis on Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. Moore, a veteran of the Army Air Corps, is retired from McDonnell Douglas. Puri is assisted by technician Samantha Maher. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — Missouri officials said on Wednesday the state will receive tens of thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the coming days, bolstering efforts to inoculate frontline health care workers, even as officials across the region promised they would reveal plans next week for the next phase of vaccinations.

Officials also noted that they were watching for a variant of COVID-19, which emerged in the United Kingdom, to appear in local samples, but said they hadn’t yet seen it.

Gov. Mike Parson said during a news conference that the state expects 37,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 36,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week. Parson said Missouri will receive enough by the end of January for frontline health care workers and long-term care facilities, but said there wouldn’t be enough for the general public this month.

“It is important to remember that the current demand for the vaccine is much greater than the supply,” Parson said.

Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said the state will release more details next week about its plans for rolling out Phase 1B, the next group to be vaccinated, which includes first responders, essential workers, residents older than 65, and individuals with medical conditions that place them at higher risk.

Meanwhile, St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force leader Dr. Alex Garza said that 47,843 health care workers, or 45% to 65% of frontline employees, have received vaccinations in the BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health and St. Luke’s Hospital facilities in the area.

“We don’t know how many more doses of vaccine will arrive, or how quickly we can get to the general public, but we do know that vaccines will come,” Garza said. ”They’ll come eventually, and we’re working as hard and as fast as we can.”

He said that the task force has been fielding questions from health care workers who aren’t affiliated with major hospital systems, who are “rightfully concerned” about when they will be able to get vaccinated. Garza said the task force is working with health departments to plan for vaccinating those individuals, and should be able to offer more definite information in about a week.

Garza warned that the region’s COVID-19 patient numbers are still “dangerously high” and could yet overwhelm hospitals.

Health officials in Missouri and Illinois are monitoring for signs of a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19, first detected in the UK in September and believed to be more easily spread than others.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said it is likely already in Illinois, though it has not been detected in samples.

CVS Health is preparing for wider distribution of the vaccine, too. The company is slated to vaccinate at more than 600 long-term care facilities in Missouri, and has so far completed first doses at 103. The company has 153 more locations scheduled in the coming week and expects to finish by Jan. 25.

The vaccine will be available at CVS pharmacies for wider distribution as soon as March or April, the company said, but noted that the timing is “purely speculative.”

In Illinois, the second group to be vaccinated, or Phase 1B, will include about 1.3 million essential workers and about 1.9 million residents age 65 and older, officials said Wednesday. Vaccines will be made available to those residents when Phase 1A, which includes about 850,000 health care workers and nursing home residents and staff, is “substantially complete.”

“It’ll be a few weeks from now,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during a news conference.

Illinois plans to immunize residents 65 and older in Phase 1B, instead of the federally recommended 75 and older. Pritzker said Black and Hispanic residents with the virus are dying at younger ages: 81 for whites, on average, but just 72 for Blacks and 68 for Hispanics.

Pritzker also said regions that meet specific criteria — less than 12% positivity rates, more than 20% available hospital beds, and declining patient numbers — could loosen social restrictions on Jan. 15.

The Metro East had an average positivity rate of 13.3% on Wednesday. The region had 21% of intensive care unit beds available, and 11% of hospital beds.

Illinois reported 7,569 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, up from 6,839 the day before. The state’s daily new case numbers have generally declined in recent weeks, with a seven-day average of 6,245 new cases on Wednesday, down from 12,722 on Nov. 12, according to a Post-Dispatch analysis.

On Wednesday Illinois reported 139 additional deaths due to the virus.

Missouri reported 2,854 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, up from 2,632 the day before. The state’s pace of new infections has also slowed compared to a peak in late November, when the seven-day average of new cases hit a record 4,723.

The Department of Health and Senior Services reported 2,738 hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide, up from 2,658 the day before. Hospitalizations have remained on a steady, high plateau since late November, with the seven-day average remaining between 2,600 and 2,800. Missouri hospitalization data lags three days, and not every hospital reports every day.

The state also reported 33 more deaths due to the virus.(tncms-asset)008f1fd8-4f69-11eb-90b9-00163ec2aa77[0](/tncms-asset)

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