SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Spencer Cox continues to push for the state to speed up COVID-19 vaccination plans, including offering more state resources to get shots into arms.
On Thursday, the governor offered the Utah National Guard up to help understaffed local health departments as they prepare for a big push to inoculate people over the age of 70.
"Don’t wait. Don’t ask," Gov. Cox said. "Do it and send us the bill and we will pay for it."
Gov. Cox has become increasingly aggressive about vaccine efforts across the state. He is demanding hospitals, clinics and local health departments exhaust their supply of limited doses each week. It will allow the state to request more from the federal government.
"In the course of one week, we have basically doubled the amount of vaccines that we have administered," he announced on Thursday.
Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson has been traveling the state to visit local health departments to offer additional resources. During one visit to a rural health department, she found that nurses were doing data entry after a long day of vaccinating people to meet state demands for reporting the number of doses administered. She offered resources to take that pressure off the nurses.
"The state is fully behind them and we are here to remove and help with any barriers that might be getting in their way of getting these shots in arms as quickly as possible," she told reporters on Thursday.
But the vaccine rollout has been bumpy. As local health departments prepare to vaccinate Utahns over the age of 70, some have complained of appointment scheduling websites that don't work or miscommunication. Lt. Gov. Henderson said many Utahns over 70 don't have email addresses or want to talk to someone in person to answer questions about the vaccine.
Gov. Cox praised the Salt Lake County Health Department, whom he said worked "around the clock" to fix technological problems. He also urged patience.
The federal government has given guidance to states to lower the age of those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine now to 65. Gov. Cox said he would not.
"We have so many people 70 and older who want the vaccine that adding 65 to the mix would not change anything," he said. "There would be no availability we don’t have enough vaccine assigned to the state of Utah over the next several weeks."
As FOX 13 first reported earlier this week, Utah's Department of Health has already taken vaccine doses from local hospitals to give to educators and long-term care facilities, temporarily leaving some lower-tiered hospital workers without any vaccine supply.
At the same time, the governor has ordered expanded COVID-19 testing across the state. Utah has sought out additional vendors and supply. Now, anyone with symptoms can seek out a test through testutah.com, said state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn.
On Thursday, Dr. Dunn said Utah was seeing some declines in cases and positivity rates. That's good news.
"We need to keep slowing the spread of covid. Our hospitals continue to be overwhelmed. So thank you for doing your part, but please continue to do it," she said, urging people to continue to wear face masks in public, practice social distancing, good hygiene and staying home when sick.
The Governor's Office of Economic Development offered a new round of business loans for Utah companies struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses can find out more information on Personal Paycheck Program loans at coronavirus.utah.gov/business.