State officials address vaccine distribution plans and three-week 'pause'

Posted at 11:24 AM, Dec 01, 2020

LANSING, Mich. — State officials addressed ongoing efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic during a news conference Tuesday, including goals for vaccine distribution.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, says officials expect to know whether or not vaccines submitted for approval will receive emergency authorization by mid-December.

Vaccine quantities will be limited at first, with frontline health care workers being first to receive them once vaccines become available.

Khaldun says people working and living in congregate settings such as nursing homes will be next and should be able to get vaccinated in January, depending on how many doses are available.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also reiterated the need for state legislators to work together to pass an economic assistance plan, since one has not been passed at the federal level as of Tuesday.

Funding is needed for direct public health costs, such as PPE, hospital overflow and staffing, testing, and mitigating the spread of the coronavirus in congregate care settings.

"In the absence of federal funding, we also need funding to begin preparations for vaccine distribution and administration," Whitmer said. "So, we as a state need to step up and make this a priority now so we're ready when the vaccines are available."

The governor also said state officials expect COVID-19 cases to rise in the coming weeks and months despite targeted and temporary actions to slow the spread. That's because more people are traveling for the holidays to see their families.

Michigan's case rate is now at 608 cases per million people and has been declining for the past week, Khaldun said. Test positivity is now at 13%, down from 14% on Nov. 16.

But those numbers don't yet reflect cases from travel and gatherings over the Thanksgiving holiday.

"That is one thing that I am very concerned about," Khaldun said. "We would not expect to see for two to three weeks in our data. If you did gather or travel during Thanksgiving, you should really make sure you're trying to stay away from others as much as possible for 14 days."

Officials did not have answers about whether or not the state's three-week "pause" and its restrictions would be extended after it is set to expire next week.

Whitmer said it's too early to tell what MDHHS Director Robert Gordon and health experts are going to recommend.