SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's COVID-19 vaccine distributors are coming very close to meeting Gov. Spencer Cox's requirement that they use all doses available within seven days of when they were delivered.
Cox shared the information in a Thursday news conference as an update to the executive order he issued earlier this month in an effort to prevent doses sitting unused on shelves. Vaccine distributors are required to use all doses within seven days of delivery, or the extra doses will be distributed and the facility may face a reduction in its vaccine allocation, according to the order.
Also Thursday, the Utah Department of Health reported the state's number of COVID-19 cases increased by 2,089, with 30 more deaths reported, tying the December 17 record for most COVID-19 deaths reported in a single day. Three of the deaths occurred before December 31, 2020, but were still being investigated by the Utah medical examiner's office, the health department said.
The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 1,829, according to the health department. The positive test rate per day for that time period is now 19%.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox provided a COVID-19 pandemic update during his monthly news conference Thursday with PBS Utah. Watch the replay of the event below. (Note: There is a delay of about 6 minutes and 40 seconds before the press conference starts.)
Governor's Monthly News Conference
Join us for our first monthly news conference with PBS Utah!Posted by Governor Spencer J. Cox on Thursday, January 21, 2021
Utah vaccine distribution issues
Hospitals, local health districts, community nursing services and other state vaccine distributors have all used 92% or more of any vaccine doses that are older than seven days, Cox said in a news conference Thursday. Currently, there are about 1,800 unused doses in Utah that are over seven days old, but those will be used this week, the governor added.
Pharmacies working through a partnership with the federal government to deliver vaccines to Utah long-term care facilities are struggling to use those older vaccine doses, though. Those facilities are only using 17% of doses older than seven days, and state leaders estimate there are about 26,000 doses currently unused, Cox said.
"They have too much vaccine," the governor said. "The federal government has given them more vaccine than they need."
The pharmacies, which are working through the federal government and not the state, say they are ramping up distribution and will have vaccine doses in long-term care facilities in the next week, Cox said. He anticipates a "significant reduction" in old vaccine doses not being used.
The state is working to recover the 26,000 old, unused doses from the pharmacies to redistribute them to local health districts and get them in the arms of Utahns 70 and older, Cox said.
"That's a big change and something that will make a huge difference," Cox said.
New COVID-19 cases
The health department now estimates there are 52,129 active cases of COVID-19 in Utah.
Thursday's new numbers indicate a 0.6% increase in positive cases since Wednesday. Of the 1,935,579 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 17.2% have tested positive for COVID-19. The number of total tests conducted increased by 20,429 as of Thursday, and 12,793 of those were tests of people who had not previously been tested for COVID-19.
There are now 529 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Utah, including 209 in intensive care, state data shows. About 91% of all intensive care unit beds in Utah are occupied as of Thursday, including about 94% of ICU beds in the state's 16 referral hospitals. About 53% of Utah's non-ICU hospital beds are occupied, according to state data.
A total of 193,777 vaccine doses have been administered in the state, up from 181,169 Wednesday. A total of 20,190 of those doses are second doses, state data shows.
The 30 deaths reported Thursday were:
- A Beaver County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when she died
- A Cache County woman who was over the age of 85 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
- A Davis County man who was over the age of 85 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
- Two Davis County women who were between the ages of 65 and 84 and were hospitalized when they died
- A Garfield County woman who was over the age of 85 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
- Two Millard County women who were between the ages of 65 and 84 and were hospitalized when they died
- Two Salt Lake County women who were between the ages of 45 and 64 and were hospitalized when they died
- A Salt Lake County woman who was over the age of 85 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
- A Salt Lake County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when she died
- A Salt Lake County woman who was between the ages of 25 and 44 and was hospitalized when she died
- A Salt Lake County woman who was over the age of 85 and was hospitalized when she died
- A Salt Lake County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
- A Salt Lake County man who was over the age of 85 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
- A San Juan County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was hospitalized when he died
- A Tooele County man who was between the ages of 25 and 44 and was hospitalized when he died
- A Tooele County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
- A Utah County woman who was over the age of 85 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
- A Utah County man who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when he died
- A Utah County man who was over the age of 85 and was hospitalized when he died
- A Utah County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when she died
- A Utah County woman who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was hospitalized when she died
- A Washington County woman who was over the age of 85 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
- A Washington County man who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when he died
- A Washington County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when she died
- Two Weber County men who were between the ages of 65 and 84 and were hospitalized when they died
- A Weber County man who was over the age of 85 and was hospitalized when he died
Thursday's totals give Utah 330,469 total confirmed cases, with 12,803 total hospitalizations and 1,547 total deaths from the disease. A total of 276,793 Utah COVID-19 cases are now estimated to be recovered, according to the health department.
Local health districts still working out vaccine logistics
While there have been reports in some states of vaccine distributors throwing out vaccine doses, there's no evidence that any doses are being disposed of in Utah, Cox said.
"Every one of our partners knows there is no reason to waste a vaccine," he said.
Cox said when he took office, he had to choose between two vaccine distribution problems: either having doses sit on shelves or being unused, or have too much demand for the vaccine, leading to backups for people signing up to receive it.
Cox chose the latter, he said. And while it's not ideal to have more demand for vaccines than there are doses available, that's better than seeing doses sit unused or get thrown out, the governor added.
State leaders continue to work through vaccine distribution issues with local health districts, Cox said. The state has amassed a "small army of volunteers" to address those problems, he added.
Salt Lake County needed help with vaccine data entry, so the state assisted with some clerical help — dozens of volunteers helped enter thousands of data items to get Salt Lake County caught up, the governor said. Some rural Utah health districts needed technical support to help their websites and call centers keep up with demand for the vaccines, so the state Department of Technology Services worked with those districts to increase their server capacity.
Utah County needed medical personnel help to administer vaccines in some of their busier distribution centers, Cox added. The Utah National Guard has been assisting in that area, and the state sent three more medics to Utah County on Thursday to provide further help.
Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and Utah Department of Health Interim Executive Director Rich Saunders have been traveling to all of the state's local health districts to address any problems they may have, Cox said. So far, Henderson and Saunders have visited 10 of the 13 districts, and they will be visiting the remaining areas soon, he said.
Health districts have been told that the state will work with them to take care of any issues they face, the governor added. While there are still some growing pains in Utah's effort to ramp up vaccine distribution, it's showing promising results, Cox said.
"The good news is, though, right now we are seeing record vaccinations every day in every one of our local health departments," he said.
Two other vaccine producers are weeks away from receiving federal approval to distribute doses, which should help satisfy the demand for vaccines, Cox added.
2nd vaccine doses not being repurposed
The federal government has sent many second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Utah, but they remain reserved at this time, Cox said. People who have received a first dose of the vaccine should get a second dose several weeks later.
There has been some discussion on a state and federal level about repurposing those second doses and administering them to people who haven't had a first dose, but there is no plan to do so in Utah right now, Cox said. There isn't enough data that supports making that switch, he said.
However, in some cases, people who have had a first dose don't show up for their appointment to get the second dose, Cox said. In those no-show cases, the second doses that have been reserved will be repurposed as a first dose within a week, the governor said. It doesn't mean that if you miss your appointment, you've lost the chance to get a second dose — you will be able to reschedule your appointment and there will be a second dose for you, he added.
"We don't want those doses to be delayed," Cox said. "We won't have a growing glut of second doses; they will always be repurposed for first doses."
Test results now include data from PCR tests and antigen tests. Positive COVID-19 test results are reported to the health department immediately after they are confirmed, but negative test results may not be reported for 24 to 72 hours.
The total number of cases reported by the Utah Department of Health each day includes all cases of COVID-19 since Utah's outbreak began, including those who are currently infected, those who have recovered from the disease, and those who have died.
Recovered cases are defined as anyone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 three or more weeks ago and has not died.
Referral hospitals are the 16 Utah hospitals with the capability to provide the best COVID-19 health care.
Deaths reported by the state typically occurred two to seven days prior to when they are reported, according to the health department. Some deaths may be from even further back, especially if the person is from Utah but has died in another state.
The health department reports both confirmed and probable COVID-19 case deaths per the case definition outlined by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. The death counts are subject to change as case investigations are completed.
For deaths that are reported as COVID-19 deaths, the person would not have died if they did not have COVID-19, according to the health department.
Data included in this story primarily reflects the state of Utah as a whole. For more localized data, visit your local health district's website.
More information about Utah's health guidance levels is available at coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-health-guidance-levels.
Information is from the Utah Department of Health and coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts. For more information on how the Utah Department of Health compiles and reports COVID-19 data, visit coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts and scroll down to the "Data Notes" section at the bottom of the page.