Cooper Asks Feds For More Notice On Vaccine Allotment

Cooper Asks Feds For More Notice On Vaccine Allotment

5:16pm Dec 15, 2020
Governor Roy Cooper at a press briefing. Image courtesy: NC Dept. of Public Safety, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper wants the federal government to provide more time for the state to plan where it wants doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine sent.

Under the current distribution plan set by President Donald Trump's administration, states would be notified every Friday morning regarding how many doses it will receive the following week. Individual states would then have until 8 p.m. that night to tell the federal government where it wants the doses shipped to, leaving public health officials with little time to coordinate details on who will get the vaccine and where they will get it, Cooper said.

The Democratic governor said in a news conference on Tuesday that he has warned Vice President Mike Pence of the logistical hurdles in meeting the hours-long window.

"They're supposed to tell us on that Friday morning how much doses that we're supposed to get," Cooper said during the news conference. "The key is we're supposed to have, by 8 p.m. that evening, exactly where we want them to ship those doses. Logistically, knowing that number earlier can help the team plan better. They said they would work on that."

Cooper said the state started vaccinating workers at three hospitals on Monday, eight hospitals on Tuesday, and has distribution set for 42 hospitals on Thursday. More rural hospital workers can expect to be vaccinated in the coming week or two.

Nearly 85,000 doses are being shipped this week. The state does not yet know how many more are on the way next week.

Loc Culp, patient service manager at the Medical Intensive Care Unit at UNC Hospitals, has led an overwhelmed staff that has consistently worked 12-hour shifts. Culp was the first to get vaccinated around 2:15 p.m. Tuesday at the UNC Medical Center.

"This last month, the majority of our COVID patients in the ICU are on the ventilators," Culp said. "They're a lot sicker than they have been in the last 10 months of this, so the vaccine couldn't have come at a better time. Our patients are so sick right now and our hospitals are crowded. It's just pretty distressing to see."

Mandy Cohen, the state's top public health official, estimated it will be "well into the spring" before vaccines are widely available to the general public. 

North Carolina on Tuesday reported its highest number of current COVID-19 hospitalizations to date, with more than 2,700 people hospitalized. That represents a nearly two-fold increase in the last 30 days.

As of Monday, 643 adults were in an intensive care unit, up from 347 one month ago.

More than 5,200 people tested positive for COVID-19 over the past day, with about 11% of tests coming back positive. In all but one of the last 14 days, North Carolina has had a double-digit positivity rate, which is twice as high as the state's goal of 5%.

The state has reported nearly 450,000 positive cases and 5,900 deaths since the start of the pandemic. 

"I know we're all getting so numb to these numbers, so I'm asking you to take a moment to think about who these people are," Cohen said. "They're our neighbors, our friends, our family members. They're people we love. Too many North Carolinians are getting seriously ill, and with more than 5,800 deaths, too many are dying."

Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC, was vaccinated Tuesday afternoon. He fears more hardship could be on the horizon if people travel over the holiday and further let down their guards.

"It's the huge tip of a huge iceberg," Wohl said.

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