Oakland County unveils its latest large COVID-19 vaccination site

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined other officials Friday to kick off the opening of another large-scale COVID-19 vaccine site in Oakland County.

Whitmer said by increasing vaccinations across Michigan and following safety protocols – including masking and social distancing – the state could meet its goal of vaccinating 70% of residents "by this summer."

“We all know what needs to be done,” said Whitmer. “…I think we can reach that goal by the Fourth of July and enjoy it like we should.”

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter joined Whitmer, Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman and others at the United Wholesale Mortgage sports complex in Pontiac.

The Oakland County Health Division began administering doses by appointment Friday morning at the complex. Health Division nurses were expected to complete about 1,000 vaccine appointments Friday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, center, holds up her mask as she answers questions from reporters as Oakland County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Russell Faust, left, and Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter listen in Pontiac, Friday, April 2, 2021.

“Sites like these at the UWM Sports Complex are so vital to our efforts to get more than 1 million Oakland County residents vaccinated quickly and efficiently,” Coulter said. “With more doses on the way to Michigan, we are continuing to accelerate our efforts to make a safe and effective vaccine available to all eligible residents.”

“We’re a company that believes in always doing what’s right for people, and in this case the people are those in and around Oakland County," said Laura Lawson, chief people officer at UWM. “We’re humbled to have the opportunity to share this space for such an important cause and will continue to do everything in our power to ensure we’re doing what’s right for our community.”

Officials stressed Oakland County providers are making progress administering COVID-19 vaccines. As of March 31, providers have administered more than 586,000 doses. More than 36% of Oakland County residents 16 years and older have received their first dose and nearly 70% of Oakland County seniors age 65 and older have had a first dose.

Oakland County Public Health Nurse Ruth Dargay, left, gives a vaccination shot to Christy Collom of Waterford, Friday, April 2, 2021.

“This community vaccination site will help us hit our statewide target of 100,000 shots a day and is a testament to what we can do when we work together,” said Whitmer.

“While I know we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel, we have to remember that we’re still in the tunnel — the only way out is forward and together,” Whitmer said. "I urge all Michiganders in Oakland County and statewide to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible because the safe COVID-19 vaccines are the most effective way to protect you and your family and return to the normalcy we all crave.”

The Health Division expects to vaccinate between 1,000 and 3,000 residents each day that it utilizes the UWM Sports Complex, which has the capacity for up to 5,000 appointments per day if adequate vaccine supply becomes available.

For the first and second week at UWM Sports Complex, public health nurses will administer doses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ford Field supply to residents who live in communities with a high social vulnerability index. In the weeks following, doses will come from the county’s state allocation.

Oakland County will schedule appointments at UWM Sports Complex and its other vaccine sites by pulling names from the county’s Save Your Spot list at oaklandcountycaccine.com.

On Monday all Michigan residents 16 years and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. Currently, there are 225,000 registrations on the Save Your Spot list for people who were previously eligible.

In addition to the drive-thru locations spread throughout the county, the large vaccination sites like UWM, Suburban Showplace in Novi, Southfield Pavilion and United Food and Commercial Workers in Madison Heights, the county is also holding community clinics in recreation centers and churches. The Health Division has a homebound vaccination program, a long-term care center program, and distributes vaccines to dozens of providers to supplement these efforts.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, left, talks with Pontiac Mayor Dierdre Waterman after the press conference in Pontiac, Friday, April 2, 2021.

“We are so encouraged that eligibility has expanded and we are making progress,” Health Division Medical Director Russell Faust said. “Oakland County Health Division will continue to prioritize vaccination of individuals who live and work in Oakland County based on highest risk including older adults, those with a disability or medical condition, essential or frontline workers, and communities with residents who may have more difficulty accessing the vaccine.” 

Oakland County’s seven-day case average for COVID-19 is 602 new cases per day as of March 31, a pace of about 4,200 new cases a week. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Oakland County has had about 75,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 1,600 deaths. 

For the last two weeks of March, Oakland County had more than 8,150 new confirmed cases of COVID-19. About 19% of the new cases were in kids age 18 or younger, 38% were in adults ages 19 to 39, 32% in adults 40 to 59 and 11% in people 60 and older. The seven-day positivity rate for COVID-19 tests was 13.5%.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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