SALT LAKE CITY — Joyce Durrant says the process Monday was pretty simple.

“It was easy. No pain. No strain. No anything.”

She was among the many Salt Lake area residents who were lucky enough to schedule an appointment in the county’s newly opened mass-vaccination clinic at Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy on Monday.

The vaccination effort comes as the Utah Department of Health reported seven more deaths in Utah from COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,500. The health department says there have been 324,919 positive cases for COVID-19 since the outbreak, with Utah adding 1,082 new cases in Monday’s report.

Statewide, there have been 168,908 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered, with 16,399 more recorded since Sunday. The health department says 153,979 people have received the first dose, and of those, 14,929 have gotten their second shot.

The mass-vaccine distribution site in Sandy, open by appointment only for people age 70 and older, is Salt Lake County’s first rollout of the vaccine to the general population in an effort that is expected to continue indefinitely — as long as there are doses to deliver.

Richard and Joyce Durrant were among those who received the vaccine at the expo center.

Richard Durrant said he’s been forbidden to go to work by his doctor, which has been a hardship.

“I’m too susceptible to the COVID. I have hypertension and diabetes and arthritis,” he said.

Durrant said he misses driving the bus and the camaraderie of his co-workers, so he is hopeful getting the vaccine will help him secure a doctor’s note to return to work.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, who was at the expo center site Monday, said in a telephone interview with the Deseret News that health care workers were expected to deliver just under 1,000 doses to people by day’s end.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson talks about the county’s vaccination plans during a press conference.
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson talks about the county’s vaccination plans during a press conference from a mass vaccination site at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News

“I wish we had more doses,” she said. “We could probably administer four times the amount than we are able to get out today.”

She said large centers like the Mountain America site vastly increase the efficiency of time spent for both patient and health care workers when it comes to administration of the vaccine.

“It has been working really, really well,” she said, adding that people were getting in and out of the center in about 20 minutes, including the 15-minute mandatory precautionary wait time after the vaccine is given to ensure there is no adverse reaction.

“As with any vaccine, people approach a little bit nervous but leave with big smiles on their face,” Wilson said.

There are people on hand to help those who may be in a wheelchair or require other assistance, the mayor said, but many people are walking in on their own power.

Wilson said there will be other mass-vaccination sites that open, but those efforts are complicated by the shortfall in the amount of vaccine available.

“Three percent of our population has been vaccinated to date, we want to get it closer to 70%,” she said.

At Mountain America, Wilson choked up as she described the deaths, the challenges of battling the virus and the immense pressure it has put on so many lives.

“This virus has turned us upside down as a community,” she said. “I think about the isolation of so many.”

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson was at the expo center as well, but she stressed it was not to look over the shoulder of Salt Lake County officials but to impress upon them the new gubernatorial administration has their back.

“We are very very impressed with the operation,” she said. “We are here to help.”

Henderson added that the vaccine rollout to the general population of age 70-plus Salt Lake County residents marks progress on the path toward stopping the deadly reach of the novel coronavirus.

“It has been a pretty brutal year,” she said. “And it is really exciting to see a means to the end of this pandemic.”

Richard and Joyce Durrant walk to station nine where Megan Boren, center, and Terry Begay, both Salt Lake County Health Department advanced EMTs, are waiting to give them their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the county’s mass vaccination site at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Bells to mark state’s death toll

Also on Monday, Gov. Spencer Cox ordered the bells at the state Capitol to ring at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday as part of a national COVID-19 memorial in tribute to the lives lost.

Cox said the bells will ring 15 times in remembrance of the 1,500 Utahns who have died since March of last year.

“We will never forget the heavy toll this deadly virus has taken in this state, and we pray for comfort and peace to the families and friends left behind,” Cox said. “We hope all Utahns will join in honoring those we have lost during this national moment of remembrance.”

Monday’s health department case report

The state agency says 568 people remain hospitalized with the virus, with ICU beds at or near capacity. The number of people who have been hospitalized in Utah since the outbreak is 12,576. The rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 2,154 per day, while the average for percent of positive laboratory tests is 21.1%.

Overall, 1,906,909 people in Utah have been tested for the virus, an increase of 4,649 tested since Sunday.

The seven deaths reported Monday include four women:

• A Weber County resident between the age of 25 and 44 hospitalized at the time of death.

• A Utah County resident between the age of 25 and 44 not hospitalized.

• A Utah County resident between the age of 45 and 64 hospitalized at the time of death.

• And a Washington County resident between the age of 45 and 64 not hospitalized.

Three men who died were:

• A Utah County resident between the age of 25 and 44 not hospitalized.

• A Washington County resident between the age of 65 and 84 hospitalized at the time of death.

• A Weber County resident between the age of 65 and 84 who was not hospitalized.