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Will Utah keep vaccinating a high number of people each day going forward?

Eligibility opens to all Utahns 16 and older this week

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Smith’s pharmacist Mark Welch prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination event at a church in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 20, 2021. The Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition, Smith’s Pharmacy and Salt Lake County teamed up to host the event, with the plan of administering up to 1,170 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to people of Pacific Islander descent.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health on Sunday reported 375 new cases of COVID-19 and two deaths, keeping with the slowly declining transmission trend in the state.

Health officials have said those numbers have to continue to decline in a race to beat variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as they make their way into communities across the country. And more Utahns need to be vaccinated against the highly contagious disease.

The total number of positive cases that have been detected in Utah since the beginning of the pandemic is 381,629. There have been more than 29.8 million COVID-19 cases and 541,000 COVID-19 deaths across the country in the same time frame, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Utah has had 2,062 deaths due to COVID-19, including two new deaths reported on Sunday. Those deaths include a Weber County man between the ages of 65 and 84 who was not hospitalized at the time of his death; and, a Washington County man older than 85 who was a long-term care facility resident.

There are 157 patients with COVID-19 currently being treated in Utah hospitals — three fewer than was reported on Saturday and 34 fewer patients than was being treated two weeks ago.

Sunday’s report indicates that 1,152,282 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the state, an increase of 15,236 from Saturday’s report. The health department clarifies in its report that 763,284 people in Utah have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 418,943 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Local health departments have been the leading provider for COVID-19 vaccines in Utah, with hospital systems, pharmacies and other private health care partnerships assisting to administer vaccines as quickly as possible.

About 52.6% of adults in Utah are currently eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a Sunday report from the Associated Press. That number will grow to encompass all Utahns age 16 and older by mid-week, which the AP report indicates may slow the pace of vaccination.

When other states examined in the report opened eligibility beyond health care workers in January, the AP states “that’s when the real problems started.”

Several states have experienced trouble maintaining control of vaccine supply and demand as more people are seeking it. States with limited eligibility have vaccinated a higher rate of their population, the news agency’s study concludes.

Utah sits in the middle of the pack of states, according to the AP, currently keeping a handle on the availability of the vaccine and the number of people eligible to get it, but that may change in the coming week when eligibility opens up.

“What happens next will depend on how much states can improve their vaccine delivery systems and whether Americans remain eager for vaccination, even as the threat eases with more people protected and case numbers dropping,” the AP reports.

The state has tested 2,331,716 people for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that was first detected in China in late 2019.

The rolling seven-day average number of positive tests is 466 per day, down from 469 on Saturday and 507 per day reported last Sunday.

A total of 15,236 tests were administered on Saturday for 4,534 people. That puts the rolling seven-day average for percent positivity of tests at 4.1% when all tests are included and 8% when multiple tests by an individual over the past 90 days are excluded — slowly inching in the right direction, according to state public health officials.

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn has said that a lower percentage of tests resulting in a positive diagnosis indicates the level of control over the spread of disease, but also tracks testing efforts across Utah. She said the goal is to reach a 3% to 5% test positivity rate, which would indicate that the virus is under control in the state.