Governor says Arizona can meet Joe Biden’s vaccine deadline

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Employees with the McKesson Corporation scan a box of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine while filling an order at their shipping facility in Shepherdsville, Ky., Monday, March 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, Pool)

Arizona can meet President Joe Biden’s goal to offer vaccinations to everyone who wants one by May as long as the federal government supplies enough vaccines, Gov. Doug Ducey said Friday.

“If we have the supply we certainly have the infrastructure,” Ducey told Phoenix radio station KTAR-FM.

Arizona is scheduling vaccines for people 55 and older through four state-run mass vaccination sites in Phoenix and Tucson and plans to lower the threshold to age 45 on April 1. Counties have their vaccine allotments and criteria to get them; some are prioritizing essential workers.

Ducey said he’s focused for now on the “coalition of the willing” but plans to turn his attention to people who are apprehensive and communities where people don’t have cars or otherwise struggle to get to drive-thru vaccination sites.

“All we need from the federal administration, and I’ve said this over and over, is give us more vaccine,” Ducey said. “Give us the supply, we’ll get the vaccines out there.”

Low-income areas and communities of color have lagged behind wealthier and whiter ZIP codes in vaccination rates. Ducey’s top health official, Dr. Cara Christ, said Friday that the state is beginning intensive outreach efforts in areas with low levels of vaccination.

Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the state is projected to see a significant increase in vaccine doses in April. She expects to open appointments for people age 35 and older sometime in April and to meet Biden’s May 1 deadline for appointments to be open for everyone.

Late Friday, the health department announced that three cases were discovered in Arizona of a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus that was first discovered in Brazil. The agency said in a news release that it’s unclear how widespread the Brazilian variant is in Arizona, but studies indicate the vaccine is effective against it.

Arizona on Friday reported 1,367 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases following three days with case increases below 1,000. There were 55 new deaths reported.

The state’s pandemic totals now stand at 831,832 cases and 16,519 deaths.

The number of hospitalizations for the virus also continues to make incremental decreases. As of Thursday, 831 patients were in the hospital for COVID-19. Of those, 236 were in ICUs.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that Arizona ranked seventh in the nation for COVID-19 deaths per capita over the last seven days with 4.3 deaths daily per 100,000 people.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.