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‘Local health departments have stepped up in a big way,’ Cox says of COVID-19 vaccinations

7% of Utahns have received at least one vaccine dose

Utah National Guard Master Sgt. Jaime Phair, left, administers a COVID-19 rapid test to Rune Hildyard at the Fairpark in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021.
Utah National Guard Master Sgt. Jaime Phair, left, administers a COVID-19 rapid test to Rune Hildyard at the Fairpark in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Another 15,148 people have received the COVID-19 vaccine in Utah, the state health department reported on Saturday.

So far, 27,542 people have been fully vaccinated, with another 194,733 in Utah having received the first dose — meaning almost 7% of Utahns have begun the process or are well on their way.

Health officials have said at least 70% of Utahns need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to impact further spread of the disease.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted on Saturday saying that when he became governor, Utah was vaccinating 5,000 per day and by Friday, the number increased to at least 15,000, because “our local health departments have stepped up in a big way.” He said changes included a focus on using what the state has to vaccinate as many people as possible with a first dose; also, redistributing vaccines when they aren’t being used efficiently.

The 13 local health departments across the state are doing what they can to get the vaccine to groups currently eligible, which include health care workers, long-term health care facility residents and staff, public school teachers and staff, and Utahns age 70 and older. And Cox has given them carte blanche to get it done — “every day we are providing new resources: Upgrading servers, call centers, data entry and nurses,” he tweeted.

Many health districts have reported full bookings through February.

Cox has said second doses of the vaccine will remain reserved for all Utahns who get the first dose, until a week after the second dose is scheduled. At that point, he said, it will be reallocated and used as a first dose for someone else.

On Twitter on Saturday, he said that doesn’t mean a person won’t get their second dose, just that the state will move through its supply of vaccine as quickly as possible.

“From day one, I’ve said, ‘We will use every dose within seven days. If you’re not using it, you shouldn’t have it,’” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Friday, regarding the backlog of doses sitting unused on the shelves at CVS and Walgreens pharmacies due to federal contracts. Cox said they have more than they need to accomplish their goal of vaccinating clients and personnel at long-term care facilities.

“... We just need more vaccine supply,” Cox tweeted Saturday. “We are currently receiving 33,000 first doses each week ... and we just delivered 50,000 doses in four days. We need more and we will be ready. We are lucky to have so many dedicated professionals making it happen.”

He told Cuomo that Utah’s allotment of 33,000 vaccines each week will be used by Wednesday. “And that will happen every week until we get more,” Cox said.

Masks, social distancing and proper hand hygiene will remain important even after vaccination to avoid another surge in cases. There are signs that the recent post-holiday surge is decreasing, including lower daily case numbers and the lower percent of positive tests.

The state has tested nearly 2 million people, including an increase of 10,001 since Friday.

The Utah Department of Health reported 1,771 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, as well as a slight drop in the rolling seven-day average percent of positive tests — to 18.9%. Weeks ago, the average percent of daily positive tests was 33%, and in the past week, it has hovered above 19%.

Also promising, there was a significant decline in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout Utah. Saturday’s report indicates 481 are currently hospitalized, down from 488 on Friday and 529 on Thursday.

The health department reported 11 new deaths due to COVID-19 reported since Friday, including eight men and three women, from all over the state. Two of the 11 reported deaths occurred prior to Dec. 31 and were reported Friday because of lengthy and thorough investigations of all potential COVID-19-related deaths by the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner.

A total of 1,582 people in Utah have died from the disease, adding to the more than 2 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide and more than 415,793 in the United States, as reported by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

New COVID-19 deaths reported on Saturday are:

  • A Salt Lake County man between the age of 45 and 64 who was hospitalized at the time of his death.
  • A Salt Lake County woman between 65 and 84 who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • A Washington County man between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Utah County woman older than 85 who was hospitalized.
  • A Davis County man between 45 and 64 who was hospitalized.
  • A Davis County man between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Duchesne County woman between 45 and 64 who was hospitalized.
  • A Sanpete County man between 65 and 84 who was not hospitalized.
  • A Utah County man older than 85 who was hospitalized.
  • Two Salt Lake County men older than 85, one of whom was hospitalized and the other was not.

For more information on Utah’s COVID-19 response, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.