Utah is taking the fight against COVID-19 “to the people,” Gov. Spencer Cox announced Thursday, with businesses, community groups, churches and other organizations now able to request a free mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic show up to give shots on site.
“We want to make it as easy as possible. We want to take away any excuses for not being able to get the vaccine,” the governor said during his weekly update on the state’s efforts against the coronavirus, held virtually from the state Capitol in Salt Lake City. “We hope this will really jump-start a new wave of demand.”
Cox said the state is setting aside about 25,000 first vaccine doses out of next week’s allotment from the federal government for the new program, about one-third of the supply. He urged interested organizations to sign up through the state’s COVID-19 website, coronavirus.utah.gov, and to be patient.
Utah is “past the point” of where vaccine supply is starting to outweigh demand, the governor said. More than 924,000 Utahns, including Cox, are now fully vaccinated, meaning it’s been at least two weeks since their final dose.
“Just a reminder to those of you that are fully vaccinated, it’s OK to act like it. It’s a good thing,” he said, urging the fully vaccinated to “please enjoy” their new status by spending time with friends and family and doing things they might not have been able to do during the pandemic that began more than a year ago.
The governor ended the news conference by suggesting Utahns should take their masks off and head outside. Earlier this week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced newly eased guidelines about wearing masks outdoors.
Vaccines are becoming more easily accessible, especially in less-populated portions of Utah where demand is dropping faster than urban areas, state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said. She said some are already offering walk-up vaccinations or providing doses directly to doctors, and the rest of the state will soon do the same.
Salt Lake County said Thursday COVID-19 vaccinations will be available without an appointment at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Some 20,000 vaccine doses are available at the center and the Maverik Center in West Valley City.
The governor said the number of coronavirus cases in Utah is “declining very, very slowly” after plateauing for several weeks so it’s important to remember “the race against the virus is still real,” making it critical to tamp down the spread through vaccinations “while we have the upper hand.”
With Beaver, Duchesne and Morgan counties moving from moderate to low transmission of the virus on the state index, Cox said 16 of Utah’s 29 counties are at the least restrictive level, the most ever. But he said there are 20 to 30 people hospitalized every day for COVID-19, and a slight increase in how many ended up in intensive care.
Variants of the virus are driving local outbreaks at tourism areas and schools in Utah, said Dunn, who is leaving the state to head the Salt Lake County Health Department. She said 40 new cases have been identified in the past two weeks at Elk Ridge Middle School in South Jordan among children who are too young to be vaccinated.
“It’s a reminder we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and it’s more important now than ever to get vaccinated if you are eligible. The more people that are vaccinated, the less COVID spread we’ll have. And if there’s less virus spreading around, there’s less opportunity for that virus to mutate and for the variants to take hold,” she said.
Utah was among the first states to open up vaccinations to anyone 16 or older, and shots are being given at some high schools. While a statewide mask mandate was lifted April 10 by lawmakers, many businesses and public entities still require face coverings to be worn, including K-12 schools through the end of the year.
Utah’s latest COVID-19 numbers
The Utah Department of Health reported 463 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and seven additional deaths from the virus that all occurred before April 1. The state has seen 396,985 cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
There have been a total of 2,124,832 vaccine doses administered in Utah, a daily increase of 26,895.
The rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 380 per day, and 6,402 additional Utahns have taken a test for the virus since Wednesday, with a total of 16,041 tests recorded in the past day. The rolling seven-day average for percent positivity of COVID-19 tests in Utah is 3.5% when all results are included and 6.5% when results from multiple tests by an individual are excluded.
Currently, 142 people are hospitalized in Utah with the virus and total hospitalizations in the state have reached 16,158.
Utah’s death toll is 2,197, including the seven deaths reported Thursday that all occurred before April 1:
- A Sanpete County man, between 65 and 84, not hospitalized at time of death.
- A Weber County woman, between 45 and 64, not hospitalized at time of death.
- A Davis County man, between 65 and 84, hospitalized at time of death.
- A Salt Lake County man, between 45 and 64, not hospitalized at time of death.
- A Cache County woman, between 65 and 84, 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 65 and 84, not hospitalized at time of death.