Although 64% of adults in Utah have received the coronavirus vaccine to date, state and business leaders are pushing for more to get vaccinated before the Fourth of July.
"We were very quick to get 60%, and then it's a very, very difficult task to get that last 10% (of the state's 70% goal)," said Rich Saunders, executive director of the Utah Department of Health.
"We want to prevent a resurgence in the fall. We want to do the right things to put this thing to bed and not relax before it's all the way to bed," he said.
The state has seen “some uptick” in recent cases and hospitalizations, which Saunders described as largely preventable. Since March 23, when those ages 16 and older became eligible for the vaccine, about 28,000 new cases have been confirmed in Utah. Of them, 96.8% were unvaccinated.
Of the 1,600 hospitalizations since March 23, 95.2% were unvaccinated, and 98.2% of the 113 who have died of COVID-19 in the past three months had not received a vaccine, according to Saunders.
On Monday, the Utah Department of Health reported 160 new COVID-19 cases, 2,321 additional vaccines administered and no new deaths. The rolling seven-day average for new cases is 293. Hospitals throughout the state confirmed 150 coronavirus patients were receiving treatment.
A total of 2,792,608 vaccines have been administered so far,
Saunders joined with other leaders in Magna on Monday to announce a new campaign aimed at encouraging businesses to help their employees get vaccinated before the upcoming holiday.
The "Bring It Home" campaign by the Utah Department of Health and the Salt Lake Chamber is "intensely focused" until the Fourth of July with the goal of reaching a 70% vaccination rate for adult Utahns, said Derek Miller, Salt Lake Chamber president and CEO.
"We've come far in our battle against the coronavirus and we're close to achieving community immunity. In order to achieve that, however, the state has set a goal to have 70% of all adults vaccinated, and we want to bring it home by Independence Day — a fitting and a symbolic goal," Miller said.
The campaign launched last week in a letter by Gov. Spencer Cox and Miller to the 10,000 businesses that joined the "Stay Safe to Stay Open" pledge, which offered businesses health guidelines to continue operations during the early days of the pandemic.
The new letter asks business leaders to "encourage and facilitate" vaccinations for employees, Miller said. The campaign also includes a series of public service announcement videos with statewide business leaders encouraging their peers to promote vaccines, as well as messages on KSL NewsRadio.
Ivory Homes CEO Clark Ivory noted the importance of helping those in the west side of the Salt Lake Valley and other underrepresented areas get access to the vaccine.
"For me, it's not political at all. This is all about smart business and taking care of our most vulnerable, and that's why we do this stuff," Ivory said. "I just want to do what's best for my people, for my family, for our business. And that's what it's all about."
He said his company has provided incentives for vaccinated employees, including drawings and giveaways. Each employee who gets the vaccination gets a free lunch from the company, Ivory said.
"As we have become more vaccinated as a state, we have been able to engage in some of those beautiful opportunities that we used to engage in before the pandemic started. I've seen the Utah Jazz arena filled with people in it, we've seen families getting together and celebrating different holiday events or family events together, and life is returning back to normal," Saunders said.
"The data is very clear. The vaccines work, they are safe, they are effective, and they are one very strong force as to how we will end this pandemic," Saunders said.
He asked those who have been vaccinated to reach out to unvaccinated friends and family to share their experience and lead them to trusted sources for information.
"We don't want to force or manipulate, we want people to be educated and make good decisions," he said.
Like Ivory, Magna Mayor Dan Peay emphasized the importance of helping those in underrepresented communities get access to the vaccine.
"This push and other efforts to date demonstrate our resolve for a fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine," Peay said.
Businesses or individuals can request vaccine events, during which mobile teams managed by Nomi Health will bring vaccines directly to them. More information is available at coronavirus.utah.gov.