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With a million more soon eligible for COVID-19 shots, appointments going fast in Utah

All 16 and older able to get vaccinated — if they can schedule a time

Smith’s pharmacy technician Wendy Flores administers 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.
Smith’s pharmacy technician Wendy Flores administers 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. Appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations are filling up fast in Utah now that the state is opening up eligibility to everyone 16 and older starting Wednesday.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations are filling up fast in Utah now that the state is opening up eligibility to everyone 16 and older starting Wednesday.

The decision announced by Gov. Spencer Cox last week adds about a million people to a list that already includes Utahns 50 and older, those with specified medical conditions, health care workers, first responders, long-term care facility residents and staffs, and K-12 teachers and school staffs.

There’s no estimate on how long it will take to get shots in the arms of all residents who want to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, Utah Department of Health spokesman Tom Hudachko said. Since the first vaccines arrived in mid-December, nearly 1.2 million doses have been administered.

His advice is “just to be patient. Each time we’ve opened eligibility to additional groups we’ve created more demand than we have supply. If somebody can’t find an appointment today, keep trying.” Hudachko said they “definitely” can count on being able to get vaccinated, although the question is how soon.

Anyone looking for appointments through links on the states’s coronavirus.utah.gov website Tuesday saw that’s likely going to take awhile.

Harmons posted it was fully scheduled for COVID-19 vaccinations and that new slots wouldn’t be available until March 29 at 9 a.m. Others, including Maceys and Dan’s locations, were booked online through April 22. Reams in Springville appeared to have plenty of appointments — starting May 10.

Intermountain Healthcare, the region’s largest health care provider, doesn’t have any appointments left this week for the new group of eligible Utahns but expects to open up more slots Friday. University of Utah Health, which is only vaccinating its own patients, expects its available appointments will go quickly.

As of Tuesday morning, the Salt Lake County Health Department had about 24,000 of the more than 46,000 appointments that opened up Monday still available, spokesman Gabe Moreno said. All of the appointments are for April and most are for mid-month and beyond, he said.

The Davis County Health Department’s drive-thru vaccination site in Farmington’s Legacy Events Center won’t start taking appointments for the newly eligible until 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, but is already booked through April 5 by those already prioritized for vaccines, spokesman Trevor Warner said.

“The appointments people will be scheduling for will be for the week of April 5 and the next couple weeks to follow,” Warner said. “If we somehow fall into extra vaccine, then appointments will be added and people could get in sooner, but that’s a big if.”

He said the site is administering roughly 14,000 vaccine doses a week.

Utah is joining West Virginia, Alaska and Mississippi in offering vaccines to all adults. Other states are announcing dates for extending eligibility to all, including Texas starting on Monday. President Joe Biden has set May 1 as a deadline for all Americans to be able to be vaccinated. Cox moved up his own April 1 goal.

Vaccines are not available to anyone under 16 years old, although trials are underway. Only the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, one of three approved for use in the United States, can be given to 16- and 17-year olds. The two-dose Moderna and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only for those 18 and older.

A law passed by the Utah Legislature last session lifts the state’s mask mandate on April 10, and other restrictions intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 once enough vaccine has been received to inoculate 70% of the population, about 1.63 million doses, as long as case counts and hospitalization rates remain low.

‘No Mask Mandate for Kids Act’ introduced

Also Tuesday, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, introduced legislation in Congress he is calling the No Mask Mandate for Kids Act to rescind the president’s order issued on his second day in office requiring masks be worn in airports, bus and train terminals, and on trains, planes, buses and public transportation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children under 2 years old are exempted. A news release from the Utah congressman’s office said “there has been no reasonable scientific backing to support” children having to wear masks.

“This decision doesn’t belong in the hands of the federal government,” Stewart said. “Families with young children are being thrown off flights for the slightest mask-wearing ‘infraction.’ Industries, states and families have a right to decide whether or not children have to wear masks while traveling.”

Utah’s latest COVID-19 numbers

The state health department reported 383 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, and 15 additional deaths, including 12 that occurred before March 1. A total of 1,178,728 vaccine doses have been administered in Utah, a daily increase of 23,950.

The state’s rolling seven-day average for positive COVID-19 tests is 443 per day, and 6,022 more residents have been tested since Monday as a total of 15,624 tests were administered. The rolling seven-day average for percent positivity is 4% when all test results are included, and 7.8% when multiple tests by an individual over the past 90 days are excluded.

Currently, 131 people are hospitalized in Utah with the virus. The state’s death toll is now at 2,077 with the 15 deaths reported Tuesday. They are:

• A Weber County woman, between 65 and 84, long-term care facility resident.

• A Davis County man, between 65 and 84, long-term care facility resident.

• A Salt Lake County woman, between 65 and 84, long-term care facility resident.

• A Utah County woman, between 65 and 84, long-term care facility resident.

• A Davis County man, older than 85, long-term care facility resident.

• A Utah County woman, older than 85, long-term care facility resident.

• A Salt Lake County man, between 65 and 84, not hospitalized at time of death.

• A Salt Lake County woman, between 65 and 84, long-term care facility resident.

• A Davis County man, older than 85, long-term care facility resident.

• A Garfield County man, older than 85, long-term care facility resident.

• A Salt Lake County woman, between 65 and 84, not hospitalized at time of death.

• A Utah County man, older than 85, not hospitalized at time of death.

• A Salt Lake County woman, between 65 and 84, not hospitalized at time of death.

• A Utah County man, between 45-64, not hospitalized at time of death.

• A Cache County man, between 45-64, hospitalized at time of death.