SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 26,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines are sitting on shelves at federally contracted pharmacies throughout Utah as the state matched its deadliest day of the pandemic Thursday.

Another 30 lives have been claimed by COVID-19, three of them prior to Dec. 31, according to the Utah Department of Health, which updates the numbers daily. In all, 1,547 people in Utah have died from the disease.

The 30 new deaths ties the record for the most daily deaths that were reported on Dec. 17.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said, “Our highest priority is to protect those most vulnerable.”

He wants vaccines to get in the arms of people who need it most and are at highest risk of dying from a COVID-19 infection. During the governor’s first monthly PBS Utah news conference on Thursday, Cox said he will make sure every available dose gets used — starting with the excess on pharmacy shelves.

“They have too much vaccine. More than they need,” he said, adding that the state is working to “get the extra doses back.”

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CVS, Walgreens and Managed Health Care Associates Inc. have partnered with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to distribute COVID-19 vaccines at long-term health care facilities across the country. They apparently haven’t been able to use what was allocated to them.

Any surplus doses, Cox said, will be redistributed to local health departments throughout Utah for use in the 70-year-old and older population.

“We’re going to make it happen, willingly or not, it’s going to happen,” he said. “We don’t want those sitting on shelves where they can potentially expire. That would be the worst-case scenario.”

As far as doses distributed by the state and through Utah health departments, Cox said there are just 1,800 that have not been used within the seven-day timeline he set forth in one of his first orders as governor this year. He said those should be used this week.

In all, 193,777 total vaccines have been administered in Utah since they arrived mid-December. It is 12,608 more than was reported by the health department on Wednesday.

“Right now we are seeing record vaccinations every day in every one of our local health departments,” Cox said.

Second doses, required after 21 or 28 days, depending on the vaccine manufacturer, are being reserved for people who have already had one dose. The governor said they will be reserved for a week after the 21 or 28 days between doses.

After that, “second doses will be repurposed into first doses,” he said.

COVID-19 vaccines are currently available in Utah for health care workers, long-term care facility staff and residents, first responders, K-12 educators and school staff. The state began Monday immunizing Utahns age 70 and older.

The governor anticipates that with a new presidential administration and two other vaccines nearing approval, more doses will be coming to Utah. Studies showed only the results of immunity after two doses in the available Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, so health officials have not veered from that, but Cox said it might come down to some immunity for more people being better than the projected 95% immunity for a few.

Another 2,089 cases of COVID-19 were reported on Thursday, bringing the state’s total number of known infections to 330,469. The health department also reported 529 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah.

The state has tested 1,935,579 people for COVID-19 — some of them multiple times.

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn told lawmakers on Wednesday that Utah is testing more than 10,000 people each day and the percent of those tests that is positive is dropping.

For several weeks, the average percent of positive tests has been around 33%, but for at least the last couple days, it has settled near 19%, which is a sign that there’s a decline in the spread of disease, Dunn said.

She said a decrease in spread would also lead to a decreased burden on hospitals and specifically intensive care units.

Utah ranks sixth in the nation for the number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC.

Dunn said the highest potential of immunity from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is not achieved until two weeks after the second dose is given.

In Utah, 20,190 people have received both of the required doses of the vaccine.

Utah’s 13 local health departments are working through various hangups to make the vaccination process as efficient as possible, including billing and data entry issues, personnel shortages and technical support to keep up with the overwhelming demand.

Cox said he is grateful there is so much demand, as opposed to vaccines going unused. Appointments to get the vaccine, he said, are booked through February in most health districts.

“There is no evidence of any vaccines in this state being thrown away or going unused,” he said. “Of course, we want these vaccines in the arms of our most vulnerable. ... I would rather have it in the arm of a healthy 25-year-old than being thrown away.”

Cox also encouraged Utahns to seek out higher-grade face masks — N95 or KN95. He said fabric face masks protect others should the wearer be sick, but do little to protect the wearer.

We wear masks to protect those around us. If we can upgrade masks, we can protect not just those around us, but we can protect ourselves,” he said, adding that he hopes to increase production of the masks.

Various public health orders regarding the state’s coronavirus response were extended on Thursday, including the mask requirement for public schools, which will remain in effect through June 15.

Other restrictions, including “Test to Play” requirements for events, particularly school sports and extracurricular activities, will remain in effect until at least Feb. 22, the order now states.

New COVID-19 deaths reported on Thursday include:

  • A Beaver County woman between the age of 65 and 84 who was hospitalized at the time of her death.
  • A Cache County woman older than 85 who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • A Davis County man older than 85 who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • Two Davis County women between 65 and 84 who were hospitalized.
  • A Garfield County woman older than 85 who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • Two Millard County women between 65 and 84 who were hospitalized.
  • Two Salt Lake County women between 45 and 64 who were hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County woman older than 85 who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • A Salt Lake County woman between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County woman between 25 and 44 who was hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County man older than 85 who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • A Salt Lake County woman older than 85 who was hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County woman between 65 and 84 who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • A San Juan County man between 45 and 64 who was hospitalized.
  • A Tooele man between 25 and 44 who was hospitalized.
  • A Tooele woman between 65 and 84 who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • A Utah County woman older than 85 who is a long-term care facility resident.
  • A Utah County man between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Utah County man older than 85 who was hospitalized.
  • A Utah County woman between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Utah County woman between 45 and 64 who was hospitalized.
  • A Washington County woman older than 85 who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • A Washington County man between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Washington County woman between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • Two Weber County men between 65 and 84 who were hospitalized.
  • A Weber County man older than 85 who was hospitalized.

New COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday by health district:

  • Salt Lake County, 762
  • Utah County, 388
  • Davis County, 194
  • Weber-Morgan, 194
  • Southwest Utah, 192
  • Bear River, 93
  • Central Utah, 87
  • Wasatch County, 39
  • Tooele County, 36
  • Summit County, 31
  • TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 21
  • Southeast Utah, 20
  • San Juan County, 14