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Gov. Cox Wants More Testing, Faster Vaccine Administration In Utah’s Response To Pandemic

A photo of Spencer Cox and Deidre Henderson at the gov transition announcement.
Steve Griffin
Deseret News
Gov. Spencer Cox said he wants to administer COVID-19 vaccines faster.

During his inaugural address Monday, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox shared his hopes for the future. But the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic are ongoing.

When it came to handling the pandemic, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, or GOMB, often butted heads with health officials.

A recent report from The Salt Lake Tribune shows emails from GOMB leaders didn’t want to rely too heavily on health experts early in the pandemic, while Utah Department of Health officials pushed back on GOMB’s contracts with testing and contact tracing apps.

As the lieutenant governor, Cox was the head of the state’s COVID-19 task force at the time. He believes the tension between the health and budget officials was mostly good.

“It’s important to have those different voices at the table, and that just made our response better,” Cox said. “When GOMB was pushing back on the health side, that just made the health side have to sharpen their responses and bring their data to the table. There were probably some times when it distracted from the response, which is never good, but those were few and far between.”

He said GOMB has less of a role now and “was probably involved too much.” In recent months, Cox said there’s been a better relationship between public health and the economic response. He said the two groups jointly proposed the statewide mask mandate.

“Those teams have been working very closely together,” he said. “It’s totally different, where they’re not at odds with each other, but they’re working to complement each other.”

Looking ahead, Cox is focused on more testing and the vaccine rollout. He said administering the vaccines has to happen a lot faster.

“My goal, as an administration, will be that every vaccine that is received in the state of Utah will be administered within one week,” he said. “That’s where we have to get to, and we will move heaven and earth to make that happen.”

He said it’s critical to communicate to the public who is eligible for the vaccine and when, as well as having “mass vaccination events” in underserved communities across the state.

Cox said, for now, the mask mandate — which expires Jan. 21 — and other restrictions will stay in place.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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