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Nearly 80% of Utahns 70+ have been vaccinated, more counties move transmission levels

SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly one million Utahns have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. And the shots aren’t expected to slow down anytime soon. In a news conference Thursday, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson announced 79% of Utahns 70 years old and over have been vaccinated. 

“This is something to be very grateful for and proud of,” said Henderson. Additionally, Henderson reported 64% of people between the ages of 65-69 have received at least one dose, and 29% of 50-64-year-olds have received at least one dose.


Getting more Utahns vaccinated 

The governor’s office announced all Utah adults should be eligible for the vaccine starting April 1. Governor Spencer Cox also plans to lift the statewide mask mandate by April 10.

However, will enough of the community have shots in arms for the state to avoid another surge in COVID-19 cases? 

Cox said he spoke with Jeff Zients, the person leading federal vaccination efforts for the Biden administration, about Utah getting more doses of the vaccine because of its growing population. One of the reasons Utah isn’t receiving enough doses, according to Cox, is due to outdated population data on the federal level. 

And Cox said fast-growing states, like Utah, will be at a “disproportionate disadvantage” when it comes to vaccine allocation because there are more people residing in these states than vaccines. 

“It’s still good data. It’s just a couple of years outdated,” said Cox, noting the data should be updated sometime soon. 

On the state level, Henderson said a main goal is getting the vaccine to vulnerable residents, such as Utah’s refugee and home-bound population. 

“There is a lot of barriers we need to overcome,” including language, religion, vaccine distrust, said Henderson.

A switch to transmission levels 

Utah, Iron, Tooele and Sevier are the latest counties to make the switch to “moderate” transmission. 

Under “moderate” transmission, people may hold large gatherings with masks, and businesses can increase capacity. However, Cox was clear to say the move doesn’t mark the end of the pandemic. 

“It does not mean the pandemic is over, it means the virus is slowing,” said Cox. But things will begin to resemble a pre-pandemic world, such as tables at a restaurant being closer together. 

And even as COVID-19 restrictions loosen, Cox said the mask mandate will not disappear entirely on April 10. For example, students will still have to wear masks inside the classroom. 

Cox also advised businesses not to ditch the mask requirement either.

A look at coronavirus case counts 

The coronavirus in Utah isn’t gone but is plateauing, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn. The state reported 646 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, along with 23 additional deaths, surpassing more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths in Utah. 

Within the past week, Utah’s case positivity rate declined by 10%. The current 7-day rolling average for percent positivity of “people over people” is 8.44%, with an average of 524 cases per day. 

Hospitalizations are down to 167 and 66 people are in an intensive care unit, however, Dr. Dunn noted ICU stays are continuing to decline. 

Dr. Dunn announced confirmed cases of the COVID-19 variant, also known as the UK variant, will be added to the state’s coronavirus dashboard. Currently, around 70 people have tested positive for the variant. 

“It [COVID-19 variant] does cause more severe disease,” warned Dr. Dunn.

However, the good news is the authorized COVID-19 vaccines protect against the variant. 

“It is so important to get the vaccine when you’re offered,” said Dr. Dunn.  

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