SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – During Utah’s weekly COVID-19 briefing, state leaders announced a COVID-19 vaccine will be here soon – and they hope it will help drive down cases. And as the fight against COVID-19 continues, digital contact tracing begins.
Once the Federal and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., Utah Governor Gary Herbert said more than 154,000 vaccines will be shipped to the state within 24-hours.
Another 154,000 doses of the vaccine will be delivered in January.
Utah’s vaccination plan suggests frontline healthcare workers will have the opportunity first.
And Herbert announced teachers and staff in K-12 schools will also receive priority, having the option to be vaccinated by mid-December or early January.
“We need students to learn – but we need teachers to be able to teach,” Herbert said. “And we’re trying to make sure we have a safe environment for our students and our teachers as we can, so they can continue to teach in class.”
The Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews responded to the announcement and said she appreciates public school educators being placed as a high priority.
“The Utah Education Association expresses appreciation to Governor Gary Herbert and the Utah Department of Health for prioritizing public school educators in the state’s proposed COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan. Teachers and school staff risk their health each day by being in school face-to-face with students. It is critical those dedicated public school employees who elect to receive the vaccine, many of whom are at-risk themselves, have convenient access as soon as feasibly possible.”UEA President Heidi Matthews
It’s now been two weeks since Thanksgiving and Herbert and state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said officials were bracing for the worst. But new data suggests case counts are not as anticipated.
“Instead of being in the three to four thousand range – which we anticipated, maybe up to five thousand cases – we’ve been in the mid to two thousand,” Herbert said.
“It is not nearly the surge we were expecting post-Thanksgiving,” Dunn said.
Dunn and Herbert are grateful to those who followed the state’s council and limited their social interactions in November.
Automatic contact tracing
Moving forward, if a person tests positive for COVID-19, Dunn said they may receive a text message rather than a phone call as automatic contact tracing begins.
“The hope is that it’s speeding up the initial case investigation process,” she said. “And in that secure form on the link that’s gonna be in the text message is an opportunity for the person who tested positive to put in all their information for close contacts.”
Dunn said no personal information will be asked in the text message, only in the secure link.
“The text will include a link to a secure form,” she said. “The person who tested positive can provide information related to the case investigation and contact tracing electronically.”