Vaccines administered to K-12 staff in Washington County

Coronavirus Updates

ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) — It’s a crucial week for staff in the Washington County School District. In a community that has frequently voiced opposition to COVID-19 mandates and restrictions, educators are now receiving the vaccine.

“I’ve just been very anxious to get it,” Crimson View Elementary teacher Michelle Belliston said. “Now, I’m just so excited that I have it, and I look forward to the second one.”

Belliston, a teacher for 25 years, is among those with underlying health issues putting her at higher risk. She tells ABC4 News she has had no side effects since receiving her first dose of the Moderna vaccine Monday and is grateful for the smooth and quick experience at the Southwest Utah Public Health Department.

The 5-county health district, including Washington, Iron, Garfield, Beaver, and Kane counties, has received 2,250 doses this week and have scheduled appointments for each dose, including K-12 staff, first responders, and healthcare workers.

“By the end of the week, we will have given 4,200 shots, which is all the vaccine we’ve received since we started last week,” the health department’s public information officer David Heaton said.

For educators, finding a good time to get the vaccine may be a logistical concern. Belliston said her principal gave her permission to leave during the day and find staff to briefly cover her classroom. Steven Dunham, director of communications for the Washington County School District, says school employees will need to work with their supervisor accordingly.

As the vaccines are not mandatory, Dunham said the district repeatedly sent out a survey to all employees to determine who would be willing to receive them. The vast majority of staff, 2,800 out of 3,600 employees, responded to it: 46% said they would take it, 28% said they wouldn’t, and 25% said they’re still on the fence. Dunham said administrators gave these responses to local public health officials to help determine how many vaccines they would need to distribute.

“We’re closer to being able to do all the things we love to do and do more things here at school, interacting with the kids more,” Belliston said. “I would hope others would take this opportunity.”

As of late Tuesday afternoon, all vaccination slots in the county from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. this week and the vaccination clinics reserved only for K-12 teachers and staff from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. next Tuesday through Sunday are full.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Washington County School District is reporting 81 students and 43 employees who are COVID-19 positive in addition to 345 combined students and staff potentially exposed to the virus and in quarantine.

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