UDOH is changing prioritization process for COVID-19 symptom treatments

Jan 21, 2022, 7:25 PM
Hepatitis kids Utah...
FILE: Utah health officials are unclear about what caused two cases of a severe liver illness in children. Photo: KSL TV.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Department of Health is making huge changes in how they determine who gets to be first in line for certain treatments for COVID-19 symptoms.  They still need to prioritize some patients over others, but officials say their old method could lead to legal challenges.

COVID-19 treatments

There are two kinds of COVID-19 treatments that are in very short supply.  Officials say there is not enough monoclonal antibody treatments available for all of the patients experiencing symptoms.  Plus, Utah Department of Health Deputy Director Michelle Hofmann says there are pills, like Paxlovid, that appear to be just as effective as monoclonal antibodies, but there is a very limited number of those treatments.

Hofmann said, “The degree of scarcity we’re experiencing now, relative to the cases that we’re seeing, is just nothing like we’ve had to deal with before.”

These treatments are hard to find. So, the state still needs to find ways to prioritize which patients should get them.  They’re intended for people experiencing moderate symptoms who haven’t been hospitalized in hopes of keeping them out of treatment centers and ICUs.  In the past, healthcare workers used criteria like race and gender to prioritize patients, but Hofmann says that raises a lot of legal questions.

“When things are out in the public sphere, it causes us to ask questions.  So, we did take a very close look and did a legal analysis,” she said.

Risk assessment calculator

So, officials decided to take race and gender out of their risk assessment calculator.  They also decided to remove the “automatic prioritization” for some immunocompromised patients and pregnant women.

“We cannot base our decisions based on those protected classes, alone,” Hofmann said.

That’s not to say that the healthcare gaps in minority communities have disappeared.  Hofmann says people of color are more likely to be hospitalized with COVID symptoms.  Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders were 2.3 times more likely to go to the hospital than Non-Hispanic White people, Asian Americans are 1.5 times more likely, and Hispanics were 1.4 more likely.  However, instead of giving those groups more “points” on the risk calculator, Hofmann says they’re increasing their efforts to bring these medications to communities that need them.

She said, “We’re doubling down and being much more diligent in bringing these providers on board.”

State health workers will use the same prioritization rules they use for the general public in places like long-term care centers, jails, prisons and other “congregate settings.”  They’re also going to put unvaccinated people over the age of 75 in a higher priority level.

Hofmann says national news coverage of Utah’s previous risk assessment calculator had zero impact on their decision process.

Read more:

Today’s Top Stories

COVID-19-Utah response

BYU study COVID money...
Martha Harris

BYU study says ‘going cashless was useless’ during height of pandemic

Many businesses went to a cash-only model at the start of the pandemic. A recent BYU study found the effort made little impact.
14 days ago
Flags are ordered to be lowered...
Amie Schaeffer

Flags lowered to honor lives lost to COVID-19

In accordance with an order from President Biden, Gov. Cox authorized flags lowered through May 16. The order is meant to honor lives lost to the virus.
15 days ago
Utah national parks no longer have a mask mandate...
Chandler Holt

Masks no longer required in national parks

Since a federal judge struck down the CDC's transportation mask mandate, guests in national parks can choose if they'd like to wear a mask or not.
1 month ago
Photo of two 'mask required' signs...
Associated Press

CDC to extend federal travel mask mandate

CDC to extend travel mask mandate for two weeks to monitor uptick in COVID-19 cases.
1 month ago
Utah begings using wastewater to track components of the COVID-19 virus in communities...
Dan Bammes

Monitoring COVID-19 virus in Utah through wastewater

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is monitoring levels of the COVID-19 virus components in sewage at wastewater treatment plants across the state. While it’s a useful early warning system, Utah’s state epidemiologist says it’s just one of the tools they have for monitoring COVID-19 infections in the community. Last year, when the Delta variant showed […]
2 months ago
(A testing site operated by Nomi Health across the street from UDOH headquarters.  Photo: Paul Nels...
Paul Nelson

Federal health officials investigating Utah-based company over COVID-19 testing

A Utah-based company is being investigating for claims of substandard conditions at COVID-19 testing sites.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
UDOH is changing prioritization process for COVID-19 symptom treatments