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Officials hoping Utahns avoided Super Bowl super spreader events as COVID-19 cases drop to 514

There’s also a new call for juror vaccinations

A pharmacist prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Summit Senior Living in Kearns on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.
A pharmacist prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Summit Senior Living in Kearns on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The day after Super Bowl Sunday, Utah health officials hope residents did their part to keep declining COVID-19 case counts falling, but only time will tell.

“We wouldn’t anticipate seeing an increase in testing or in positive tests for seven to 10 days following the event,” Utah Department of Health spokesman Tom Hudachko said Monday, the same day the agency reported just 514 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths from the virus.

Utahns were advised by public health experts to stay home for the big game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs and hold any parties either virtually or with a guest list limited just to members of their households.

Whether Utahns followed those precautions remains to be seen, Hudachko said, hoping residents know by now to avoid large gatherings.

Renewed lobbying to start jury trials by vaccinating jurors

Also Monday, there’s a new push for vaccinations to be made available to jurors and others in Utah courtrooms.

Utah has seen a total of 355,122 positive coronavirus cases, according to the Utah Department of Health, and more than 2 million Utahns have been tested for the virus, including 3,653 since Sunday. The rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 1,133 per day.

The health department announced a new COVID-19 statistic Monday, a rolling seven-day average based on all tests conducted. The previous rolling seven-day average did not include the results of an individual’s multiple tests within a 90-day period.

So while the rolling seven-day average for percent of positive laboratory tests is 15.4%, under the new measure that includes all test results, that average drops to 7.3%. Health officials said that method is used by at least 37 other states.

Vaccinations are up 3,087 since Sunday, for a total of 417,024 doses administered in the state.

Currently, 308 people hospitalized with COVID-19, and the death toll in Utah has reached 1,738. That includes a Washington County man, between 65 and 84, and a Utah County woman, between 45 and 64, both hospitalized at the time of death.

The Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is urging Gov. Spencer Cox to prioritize vaccines for potential jurors and others in the courtroom, according to a letter released Monday from the group that is particularly concerned with the rights of those jailed as they await trial.

But Cox says Utahns most susceptible to the virus must be inoculated first. Since vaccines first arrived in Utah in mid-December, they have been available to health care workers, first responders, long-term care facility residents and staffs, teachers and school staffs, and Utahns over 70 years old.

Last week, the governor said beginning March 1, the eligibility list will be expanded to Utahns 65 and older, and those with specified medical conditions, including transplanted organs, certain cancers, uncontrolled diabetes, severe obesity, stroke, Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and some kidney, heart, liver and respiratory diseases.

But an almost yearlong pause on jury trials is viewed by the defense attorneys group as an “injustice occurring in Utah which can now be rectified.”

“These defendants have not been convicted, assert they are not guilty, and yet cannot have their day in court,” defense attorney Mary Corporon wrote on behalf of the group in a letter to Cox dated Jan. 15.

The governor isn’t planning on granting Corporon’s request, however — at least for the time being.

“During this time of scarce vaccines, we’re following the data and right now we need to vaccinate those at highest risk of death and hospitalization,” Cox said in a statement to the Deseret News.

Corporon, in her letter, urged the governor to consider those involved in trials as essential workers.

“This is not about any one particular case, but about defending the sacred constitutional concepts of speedy trial, due process of law and open access to the courts, all of which are rights enshrined in both the United States and Utah state constitutions,” Corporon wrote.

Groups of eight to 12 jurors are called for jury duty weeks or months in advance and could get the vaccine well ahead of a trial, she said.

While the statewide halt to trials since March 13, 2020, has significantly affected defendants, it has also placed victims’ lives on hold, Corporon added in a Monday prepared statement.

A handful of jury trials are starting up again in a state court pilot program that is using rapid testing, a mask mandate and distanced seating in an expansive courtroom. Still, a backlog of hundreds of cases remains.

Outside of the pilot program, the Utah Supreme Court has given individual courthouses the green light to hold trials only if the countywide infection rate has decreased or holds steady at a level that does not threaten to overwhelm hospitals. The spread of the coronavirus has remained too high in most of the state for jurors to assemble.

Corporon noted that just one trial in the state had taken place by the time she penned the letter. After transmission rates dipped in Duchesne County, a jury found Kristy Lee Whitchurch guilty of murder in October.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have resisted the prospect of remote trials, saying it’s important to be able to read subtle cues from a witness and ensure that everyone is paying close attention to the proceeding.

Under the state’s pilot program, another jury trial is set to begin in Duchesne on Wednesday, with more expected to follow in northern Utah’s 2nd District Court and in the 4th District, which includes Utah, Wasatch, Juab and Millard counties.

Free testing program

The state’s free coronavirus testing program continues this week, to hopefully identify people infected with the virus more quickly, to help slow its spread. Anyone at least 5 years old can be tested, even if they do not have any coronavirus symptoms, or are only experiencing mild symptoms.

Those who have come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 while that person was infectious are asked to quarantine and wait seven days to be tested, to allow enough time for the virus to build up to the point it can be detected.

The rapid antigen tests are less sensitive than a PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, test, so anyone with symptoms who tests negative or doesn’t show symptoms but tests positive, will be referred for a follow up PCR test to confirm the results.

People should preregister online for the free tests to speed the process, and wear masks and social distance while waiting on site. Identification may be required and results will be emailed.

The testing sites, selected based on high positivity rates, fewer tests having been conducted in the area, untreated wastewater sampling and other surveillance data, are:

Box Elder County:

— Bear River Middle School, 300 E. 1500 South, Garland (east parking lot), Wednesday and Thursday, 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Register here.

Cache County:

— Ridgeline High School, 180 N. 300 West, Millville (drive-thru), Friday and Saturday, noon to 7 p.m. Register here.

— Hyrum Senior Center, 695 E. Main, Hyrum (drive-thru), Monday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Tuesday, noon to 7 p.m. Register here.

Duchesne County:

— Duchesne Justice Court, 21554 W. 9000 South, Duchesne (drive-thru), Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Register here.

Grand County:

— Southeast Utah Health Department, 575 S. Kane Creek, Moab (drive-thru), Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday, noon to 7 p.m. Register here.

Juab County:

— Juab School District Office, 346 E. 600 North, Nephi (drive-thru), Monday, and Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Register here.

Millard County:

— Fillmore Family Medicine, 770 S. state Route 99, Fillmore (drive-thru), Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Register here.

Salt Lake County:

— Daybreak Community Center, 4544 W. Harvest Moon Drive, South Jordan (front parking lot), Friday, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, noon to 7 p.m. Register here.

— Herriman High School, 11917 S. Mustang Trail, Herriman (drive-thru), Wednesday, and Thursday, 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Register here.

San Juan County:

— San Juan County Building, 117 S. Main, Monticello (drive-throughu), Wednesday, and Thursday, noon to 7 p.m. Register here.

— San Juan County Health Department, 735 S. 200 West, Blanding (drive-thru), Monday and Tuesday, noon to 7 p.m. Register here.

Sevier County:

— Central Utah Public Health Department, 70 Westview Drive, Richfield (drive-thru), Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursday, noon to 7 p.m. Register here.

Summit County:

— South Summit School District, 285 E. 400 South, Kamas, Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (inside the building) and Saturday, noon to 7 p.m. (in the parking lot) Register here.

— Park City High School, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City (drive-thr), Monday and Tuesday, noon to 7 p.m. Register here.

Tooele County:

— Wendover Fire Station, 151 9th St., Wendover (drive-thru), Monday and Tuesday, noon to 6 p.m. Register here.

Wasatch County:

— Wasatch County Events Complex, 415 Southfield Road, Heber City (drive-thru), Wednesday, noon to 7 p.m. Register here.

Other state health department sites operated with the Utah National Guard are:

Davis County:

— 5-C Freeport West (From Antelope Drive, enter at 300 West and continue to C Street) Clearfield, Wednesday and Friday, 7 a.m. to noon, and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Register here.

— Woods Cross High School, 600 W. 2200 South, Woods Cross (inside in the theater — use the main entrance and follow the signs), Friday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Register here.

Duchesne County:

— Union High School, 850 E. Lagoon St., Roosevelt (drive-thru), Monday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Register here.

Salt Lake County:

— Cannon Health Building, 288 N. 1460 West, Salt Lake City, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Register here.

— Utah State Fairpark (building No. 51), 155 N. 1000 West, Salt Lake City, Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Register here.

— Corner Canyon High School, 12943 S. 700 East, in front of the Commons area, Draper, Monday and Tuesday, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Register here.

— Jordan High School, 95 Beetdigger Blvd., Sandy, Wednesday and Thursday, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Register here.

— Joel P. Jensen Middle School, 8105 S. 3200 West, West Jordan, Tuesday and Wednesday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Register here.

— Columbus Center, Promise, 2531 S. 400 East, South Salt Lake, Thursday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Register here.

— Bennion Junior High School, 6055 S. 2700 West, Taylorsville, Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Register here.

Utah County:

— Grandview Learning Center, 1591 Jordan Ave., Provo, Thursday, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Register here.

— Utah Valley University, L10 parking lot: northeast corner of 800 South and 1200 West by the athletic field (drive-thru), Tuesday and Wednesday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Register here.

— Nebo School District Advanced Learning Center, 161 E. 400 North, Salem, Monday and Friday, 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Register here.

Washington County:

— Santa Clara Fire Station, 2365 Rachel Drive, Santa Clara (drive-thru), Wednesday, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Register here.

— La Verkin Fire Department, 300 N. Main, La Verkin (drive-thru), Tuesday, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Register here.

The Salt Lake County Health Department is also operating its own test site, at the Maverik Center, Lot D, 2050 W. 3100 South (the corner of 3100 South and Decker Lake Drive) in West Valley City, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Register here.

For information on other testing sites, go to coronavirus.utah.gov/covid-testing-locations-list.