Arizona to give Pima County go-ahead for FEMA vaccine site
PHOENIX - Arizona's top health official announced Friday that a federally-supported vaccination site will be allowed to open around the Tucson area, putting an end to a state and county tug-of-war.
“Today we sent a letter to FEMA notifying them that we are going to delegate the authority to Pima County to work independently with FEMA to operate a vaccine pod if they choose that that is in the best interest of their community,” said Dr. Cara Christ, state Department of Health Services director. “The only caveat is as long as it does not result in a reduction of existing vaccine supply to the state or impact state vaccine resources and operations.”
Arizona’s second-largest county had been pushing the state to approve an offer from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to establish a community vaccination center to serve its Hispanic population. State health officials initially rejected the request.
Gov. Doug Ducey had argued it would be more efficient if the federal government simply gave Arizona more doses to administer at any of its state-run sites. Christ said the state would have had to divert resources to help with staffing, setting up proper cold storage and a whole registration system.
Chuck Huckelberry, Pima County administrator, said the state wouldn't have had to sacrifice anything.
“The federal government has made it very clear the vaccine supply was on top of the state’s allocation,” Huckelberry said. “It was a win-win. You’re getting more vaccine and distributing it and trying to provide vaccine equity.”
The conflict between Pima County and the state only seemed to fester with the county this week asking Arizona's congressional delegation to step in.
Christ said the state changed its mind after assurances that Pima County could provide the necessary staffing and other resources.
“We have a lot of existing sites that already have the infrastructure," Christ said. “So, the state remains ready, willing and able to take the additional vaccine if it’s unable to be used at this FEMA operated pod.”
Meanwhile, the state is preparing to transition its mass vaccination sites to become indoor operations as summer approaches. An outdoor state-run COVID-19 mass vaccination site in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler will be replaced April 5 by a drive-thru operation inside a large business warehouse in Mesa. The new vaccination site will use 30,000 square feet (2,787 square meters) of a 500,000-square-foot (46,451-square-meter) distribution center belonging to Dexcom Inc. It will operate 7 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
The 24-hour site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale will convert to overnight operations starting April 5. Additional indoor sites are being sought out, the department said.
Arizona on Friday reported 571 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 24 more deaths as the number of virus-related hospitalizations remained fairly stable.
There were 626 COVID-19 patients occupying inpatient rooms as of Thursday, down from 628 as of Wednesday but only a fraction of the pandemic high of 5,082 on Jan. 11, according to the state's coronavirus dashboard.
The state's pandemic totals increased to 838,558 cases and 16,898 deaths.
The additional cases reported Friday was four times as many as on Thursday but Arizona's seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases and daily deaths declined over the past two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The daily new cases rolling average dropped from 1,364 on March 10 to 483 on Wednesday while the daily deaths rolling average deaths dropped from 46 to 33.
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