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Volunteers are sought to help with vaccinations

(AP) — As the amount of COVID-19 vaccine starts to increase, leaders of the St. Louis region are putting out a call for volunteers, especially clinicians who can give shots.

Three different vaccines are now available, and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said last week that he expected a large influx of vaccine in April, so much so that the state is opening vaccinations to all adults starting April 9.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Monday that the county was aiming for 15,000 vaccinations this week, which would be a record, and that he expected even more in the coming weeks.

“To prepare for the vaccine surge we will need more volunteers to help us,” Page said. In addition to vaccinators, he asked for volunteers for nonclinical roles such as greeters and line monitors.

Dr. Alex Garza of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force made a similar plea in a news conference last week. He said volunteers were important to help get more people vaccinated and “get immunity into our community at a faster rate.”

Page also urged residents to continue with protocols such as wearing a mask and avoiding large crowds — keys, he said, to helping the economy get back on track.

“We cannot have a healthy economy without healthy residents,” Page said.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported Monday that nearly 2.1 million Missourians, or 22.1 percent of adults, had now received at least one vaccine dose. The per capita rate continues to rank in the bottom 10 among states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state reported 173 newly confirmed cases of the virus and no new deaths. Missouri has seen 486,170 confirmed cases and 8,374 deaths from the coronavirus since the onset of the pandemic. The city of St. Louis has recorded 20,397 positive cases and 443 deaths.

Parson said Monday that he had authorized transferring $300 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. A news release from Parson’s office said the transfer would keep the fund balance above the level that would trigger an increase in contribution tax rates for Missouri businesses employing 50 or fewer workers.

The transfer of funds will keep Missouri from joining 20 other states that have depleted their unemployment insurance trust funds during the pandemic.

Missouri’s jobless rate as of February was 4.2 percent, far below the national average of 6.2 percent. staff contributed to this report.

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