SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns ages 65 to 69 are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, several weeks earlier than expected.
All vaccine providers will now accept appointments from those 65 and older, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced during a COVID-19 pandemic update at a news conference Thursday morning.
Vaccinations are progressing quickly, especially over the past week, Cox said. About 62% of Utahns ages 70 and older have now had their first vaccine dose, and some individual counties have vaccinated higher percentages of that age group, the governor added.
That allowed the state to expand eligibility to people 65 and older before March 1, which had been the previous date for expansion to that age group.
"We have made incredible progress over the past month," Cox said.
People can go to coronavirus.utah.gov to schedule a vaccine appointment. Thursday's expansion does not apply to people with comorbidities — those people will still be eligible starting March 1. The list of vaccine-eligible comorbidities is available at coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine.
Some counties still have more vaccine doses available than others, and it will likely take a long time to get a vaccine appointment with the expanded eligibility, Cox added. He urged Utahns to continue to be patient as they try to get vaccinated.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox spoke at a news conference with PBS Utah on Thursday morning. Watch the replay of the event below.
New COVID-19 cases
Utah's number of COVID-19 cases increased by 1,151 on Thursday, with seven more deaths reported, according to the Utah Department of Health.
The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 830, according to the health department. The positive test rate per day for that time period reported with the "people over people" method is now 13.6%. The positive test rate per day seven-day average calculated with the "test over test" method is now 6.3%.
There are now 258 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Utah, including 105 in intensive care, state data shows. About 74% of Utah's intensive care unit beds are filled as of Thursday, including about 78% of ICU beds in the state's 16 referral hospitals. About 54% of non-ICU hospital beds are now occupied, according to the health department.
A total of 563,608 vaccines have been administered in the state, up from 551,068 Wednesday. Of those, 179,458 are second doses of the vaccine, state data shows.
The new numbers indicate a 0.3% increase in positive cases since Wednesday. Of the 2,144,709 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 17% have tested positive for COVID-19. The total number of tests conducted increased to 3,652,448 Thursday — up 21,055 since Wednesday. Of those, 8,121 were tests of people who had not previously been tested for COVID-19.
The seven deaths reported Thursday were:
- A Cache County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
- A Grand County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was hospitalized when he died
- Three Salt Lake County men who were between the ages of 65 and 84 and were hospitalized when they died
- A Utah County man who was over the age of 85 and was hospitalized when he died
- A Weber County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when she died
Thursday's totals give Utah 364,399 total confirmed cases, with 14,343 total hospitalizations and 1,813 total deaths from the disease.
Several counties moved classification on the Utah transmission index this week. The health department assesses a county's current COVID-19 situation every week on Wednesdays and announces any adjustments on Thursdays. The counties are now classified as follows:
- High transmission level: Beaver, Cache, Davis, Emery, Grand, Iron, Juab, Kane, Salt Lake, Sanpete, Sevier, Summit, Tooele, Utah, Wasatch and Washington counties
- Moderate transmission level: Box Elder, Carbon, Duchesne, Millard, Morgan, San Juan, Uintah and Weber
- Low transmission level: Daggett, Garfield, Piute, Rich and Wayne
Utah's coronavirus case numbers have begun to trend downward in recent weeks as vaccinations have increased. Wednesday, the state reported under 100 COVID-19 patients in intensive care for the first time since October.
Utah's vaccine allocation continues to be increased each week, and currently stands at about 45,000 doses delivered to the state each week, Cox said.
A total of 563,608 doses have now been administered in Utah, according to the governor. That is up from 551,068 Wednesday and up nearly 101,000 over the past week, he added.
Utah's single-day vaccination record was 24,618 doses administered on Feb. 11. The state is still using every vaccine dose within seven days of it being shipped to Utah, he said.
About 91% of long-term care facility residents have now been vaccinated, the governor said. The majority of COVID-19 deaths in Utah have come from that population, so it is encouraging to see such a high number of vaccinations among that group, he added. Among the 62% of Utahns age 70 and above who have had at least one dose of the vaccine, about 15% have had a second dose, Cox said.
Cox said he still expects every Utah adult who wants a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to get one by April or May.
"We feel really good about that," he said.
There are about 130,000 people in the 65-69 age group, so at a rate of 45,000 doses per week, vaccinating that group will take several weeks, Cox added. The state will continue expanding vaccine eligibility by age group, so the 60-64 age group will likely be the next eligible population, he said. He didn't give a timeline for when eligibility would be expanded to that next group, though.
Though Cox added that the state has no plans to mandate vaccines for Utahns, he urged people to get them when they are eligible so that the state can continue to see decreasing COVID-19 case counts.
"We all have a duty to protect each other, that's just the way it works," Cox said.
Salt Lake County vaccine rollout differs
Though Cox announced all Utahns age 65 and older are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Salt Lake County's rollout to that age group will differ slightly.
Salt Lake County residents ages 69 and older will be eligible for the vaccine starting at 6 p.m Thursday, the Salt Lake County Health Department announced. Eligibility will open up gradually for the remaining age groups similarly each day through the weekend:
- Thursday, Feb. 18 at 6 p.m. for ages 69 and over
- Friday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. for ages 68 and over
- Saturday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. for ages 67 and over
- Sunday, Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. for ages 66 and over
- Monday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. for ages 65 and over
People must still make appointments with the health department; walk-ins are not currently available. For more information and to schedule an appointment, go to SaltLakeHealth.org and click on "COVID Vaccine Information."
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.
The "people over people" method for the seven-day average positive test rate is calculated by dividing the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 by the total number of people tested. The "test over test" method is calculated by dividing the total number of positive tests by the total number of tests administered.
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.