SALT LAKE CITY — Another 729 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Utah Wednesday along with seven additional deaths from the virus as the state continues a stepped-up vaccination effort that includes hiring four more companies to help administer doses.
Utah’s Red Rock Pharmacy, Hurricane Family Pharmacy and Community Nursing Services, along with Curative Wellness in California, were chosen Wednesday to join Orem-based Nomi Health to provide mobile and mass vaccinations, Utah Department of Health Deputy Director Heather Borski said.
“I think we’re just trying to be as flexible and nimble as possible and ensure the state has as many resources and options as possible with our contractors to meet our state needs. And that’s what this bid did,” Borski said. She said the state is seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to cover the expense.
Borski initially said the cost for the five contractors was expected to be about $20 million. Later, state health department spokesman Tom Hudachko said the price tag is actually $44 million, and said Borski had misspoken. Hudachko said the cost would cover administering 1.4 million vaccine doses at an average cost of about $31 each.
The four companies were chosen from among 14 contenders in the reopened request for bids that went out in February, the state’s chief procurement officer, Chris Hughes said.
Utah had signed a contract earlier this year with Nomi Health, the company behind the “Test Utah” program, and Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health are now also providing services, but Borski said more help was needed.
“We recognize as we are moving into March and further into spring, we are getting hundreds of thousands of vaccines weekly,” she said. The Biden administration announced Tuesday states should expect more vaccine doses than had been anticipated, including of the just-approved Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.
Hudachko said Utah expects to receive 121,780 vaccine doses this week, close to the capacity of what the state’s 13 local health departments can administer. Intermountain Healthcare and U. Health are building toward a combined capacity of 50,000 doses a week, as is Nomi Health, he said.
At least one new CNS-run mass vaccination site could be opened this week, Borski said. She said the details regarding Red Rock Pharmacy, a provider to long-term care facilities; Hurricane Family Pharmacy, expected to serve the southwestern portion of the state; and Curative Wellness are still being negotiated.
Gov. Spencer Cox has said he expects there to be enough vaccine by the end of April for every Utah adult who wants it. To date, more than 911,000 doses have been delivered to Utah, and nearly 760,000 have been administered — including more than 269,000 of the second doses required for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Utah is currently vaccinating residents 16 and older with specified medical conditions, as well as those 65 and older, health care workers, first responders, long-term care facility residents and staffs, and K-12 teachers and school staffs.
With the latest numbers from the Utah Department of Health, the total number of positive COVID-19 cases in the state is now 372,708, while the total number of vaccine doses given has reached 759,533, with 18,236 administered since Tuesday. The rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 590 per day.
Testing for the virus is also continuing, with 8,249 people tested and 21,267 more tests conducted since Tuesday. The rolling seven-day average for percent positivity of all testing, the state’s preferred method, is 4.8%, and 10.2% when multiple tests by individuals over 90 days are excluded.
There are 212 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah, and the state’s death toll from the virus has now hit 1,955.
Help for Utahns hardest-hit by COVID-19
Intermountain Healthcare and Maverik convenience stores announced a $2 million donation Wednesday to the Utah Department of Health’s COVID Communities Partnership, a program aimed at slowing the spread and impacts of the virus in minority and other communities that have been disproportionately affected.
The federal coronavirus relief funding that had paid for the program connecting those in need with resources ran out at the end of the year. The donation will keep the program running until additional federal funding becomes available, said Dulce Diez, director of the state health department’s Office of Health Disparities.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we moved quickly to establish a response. Community health workers were identified as a necessary component to help mitigate the spread and effects of COVID-19 on underserved and underrepresented communities, particularly racial/ethnic minority communities,” Diez said.
From May to November 2020, more than 7,000 families struggling with the financial effects of a COVID-19 diagnosis received referrals through the program, and community health workers engaged in more than 3,000 outreach activities.
“Some people need access to groceries or assistance with utilities while they can’t work. We visit with them, get to know their immediate needs, and provide the relief that allows them to focus on healing,” said Leslie Salamanca Sotelo, a community health worker with the Association for Utah Community Health.
Utah’s latest reported COVID-19 deaths
The seven deaths from the virus reported Wednesday include five that occurred before Feb. 10, and the death of an Iron County man between 65-84 that was reported Monday has been retracted by the state health department. The latest to lose their life to COVID-19 are:
- A Box Elder County man, between the ages of 65 and 84, long-term care facility resident.
- A Salt Lake County man, 45-64, long-term care facility resident.
- A Salt Lake County woman, older than 85, long-term care facility resident.
- A Salt Lake County woman, 45-64, hospitalized at time of death.
- A Salt Lake County woman, 65-84, not hospitalized at time of death.
- A Salt Lake County man, 65-84, not hospitalized.
- A Washington County man, 65-84, long-term care facility resident.