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In this Nov. 16 file photo, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds gives a prime-time televised address announcing new efforts to combat COVID-19 in the state.

OSKALOOSA — As Iowa crossed 5,000 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, Gov. Kim Reynolds acknowledged frustrations from her constituents on vaccine rollout.

During her weekly news conference, Reynolds said the state will begin seeking proposals from vendors on a statewide system for vaccination scheduling.

The move to “quickly stand up a centralized vaccine registration and referral system” comes more than 333 days since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Iowa, and 52 days since the first Iowan received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Asked by a reporter why the effort was just now beginning, Reynolds said the state is hoping to streamline the process in anticipation of vaccine supply increasing.

To date, the state has worked exclusively with various providers around the state, and each local county public health, to manage vaccine rollout.

Iowa is the third lowest state in the nation in terms of rate of vaccinations to its citizens, according to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reynolds said the state is working to do better, but also working through federal channels to try to get an increase in allocations.

“That’s not where we need to be,” Reynolds said. “We want to do better, we know we can do better.”

She said the state is reaching out to the individual counties, particularly those that aren’t fully using their allotments, to help remove roadblocks. Iowa will also work to eliminate the uncertainty by committing to giving local officials a three-week quarantine for doses.

“The more certainty that we can provide them, I think you’re going to start to see the percentages go up,” Reynolds said.

The Iowa Department of Public Health added 58 new deaths to the state’s coronavirus data, pushing the total number of Iowans who have died to 5,033. Most of the deaths reported Thursday were from January.

One of the new deaths reported Thursday were from Marion County, a male above the age of 80. It’s the county’s 60th death from the coronavirus.

Iowa added 977 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, including 14 from Marion and 12 from Mahaska.

Statewide hospitalizations fell to 360 — the lowest levels since mid-September. There were 77 in an intensive care unit.

Iowa has given both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to 69,232 Iowans, 633 from Marion and 287 from Mahaska. There have been 137,242 Iowans begin their vaccine regime by receiving the first of two required doses.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Oskaloosa Herald and the Ottumwa Courier. He can be reached at kocker@oskyherald.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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