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Health Departments inundated with calls for COVID-19 vaccine

Courtesy Image An illustration of the coronavirus provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

ALPENA — Public health officials today asked the public to be patient while employees handle hundreds of calls from residents trying to schedule appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, health officials announced today that at least three more Northeast Michiganders have died since Friday after becoming infected with the disease. Updated data for Alcona County was not immediately available.

Officials announced last week that people would be able to schedule appointments online, but District Health Department No. 4 spokeswoman Cathy Goike said today that the statewide system the Health Department was supposed to use was not up and running.

The Health Department is scheduling appointments for those 65 and older and essential workers with frequent or ongoing exposure to the coronavirus as part of their work, such as police officers, jail and prison staff, school employees, and child care providers.

Those who live in Alpena, Montmorency, Presque Isle, or Cheboygan counties can call 989-356-4507 and choose option 1. It may take some time to get through because of the large number of calls going into the department.

An appointment is required for the Health Department’s vaccine clinic, and officials said in a press release on today they are not taking or responding to vaccination appointment requests by voicemail or emails.

Scheduling is limited and clinics are scheduled as follows:

* 1-7 p.m. Thursday at District Health Department No. 4 in Alpena

* 1-7 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Cheboygan Knights of Columbus

* 1-7 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Eagles Club in Atlanta

* 1-7 p.m. Jan. 22 at Millersburg Elementary School

* 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 23 at Alpena Community College

District Health Department No. 2 spokeswoman Tracey Wood said that Health Department, which covers Alcona, Iosco, Oscoda, and Ogemaw counties, was also receiving a large number of calls and emails today.

Wood said employees are working “very hard” to reach out to people and schedule appointments.

“We thank the public for their patience as we work through this complex undertaking,” she said.

Clinics for District Health Department No. 2 are scheduled as follows:

* 3-8 p.m. Jan. 14 at Ogemaw Heights High School

* 12-6 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Mio Community Center

* 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 23 at Oscoda High School

Health Department officials said thousands of Northeast Michiganders are now eligible to receive the vaccine, and vaccine availability depends on both the supply and staffing capacity.

Public health officials today reported 33 newly infected Northeast Michiganders, including 24 Alpena County residents, four Presque Isle County residents, and five Montmorency County residents, since the last update on Friday. Alcona County figures were not updated as of late this afternoon.

The new infections mean that, as of today, at least 1,435 Northeast Michiganders were actively infected, meaning they’d been confirmed infected with COVID-19 but have not recovered or died, and could infect others.

State data showed that, as of Sunday, 1,675 doses of coronavirus vaccine had been administered in Northeast Michigan.

As of today, 13 COVID-19 patients, three of whom were in intensive care, were hospitalized at MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena, according to state data. The Alpena hospital was 43% full.

As of today, 51 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection across the state-designated, 18-county health care region that includes Alpena, Presque Isle, and Montmorency counties, according to state data.

Since the pandemic hit Michigan in mid-March, 2,210 Northeast Michiganders have been infected, according to local public health agencies. Of those, at least 462 have recovered and 73 have died.

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