SALT LAKE CITY — Utah health officials announced Friday that the 2 millionth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered, and later in the day also said the state would be able to resume giving doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
A total of 2,014,815 vaccine doses have now been administered in the state, according to the Utah Department of Health. That marks an increase of 29,519 more doses administered, up from 1,985,296 Thursday.
The number of new cases increased by 344 on Friday, with one more death reported. The death occurred before March 23 but was still being investigated by state medical examiners, the health department said.
The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 369, according to the health department. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "people over people" method is now 5.8%. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "test over test" method is now 2.9%.
Intermountain Healthcare infectious disease physician Dr. Eddie Stenehjem said Friday that Utah is currently seeing a plateau in new cases.
"We're in a plateau phase," Stenehjem said Friday during a Facebook Live video conference from Intermountain. "Cases are still here ... but they're at a stable rate."
There are 140 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Utah, state data shows. About 72% of Utah's intensive care unit hospital beds are now occupied, including about 77% of ICU beds in the state's 16 referral hospitals. About 57% of non-ICU hospital beds are now filled in Utah, according to the health department.
Stenehjem said the mood is improving in hospitals and among health care workers after a "pretty dark winter." Health care workers are vaccinated and feel protected, and they have adequate personal protective equipment, or PPE. Health care professionals are now more familiar with COVID-19 and know how to better treat it with more effective drugs.
"Things are getting better," Stenehjem said.
A total of 1,243,211 Utahns, or about 52.3% of residents age 16 and older who are eligible for the vaccine, have now received at least one dose of the vaccine. A total of 857,812 Utahns, or about 36.1% of eligible residents, are now fully vaccinated. About 38.8% of all Utahns, including children under age 16 who aren't currently eligible for the vaccine, have now received at least one dose, while 26.8% of all Utahns are fully vaccinated, state data shows.
The nation could see an end to the pause in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as early as Friday afternoon or Saturday, Stenehjem said. The pause, which was implemented by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration over a very rare blood clotting issue, had been in place since April 13.
The CDC's advisory council on Friday afternoon voted in favor to recommend resuming Johnson & Johnson vaccinations. The CDC and FDA approved the recommendation Friday evening and said the label will be updated to warn of blood clots risks.
The Utah Department of Health announced that it will follow the direction of the FDA and CDC and lifted the statewide pause on the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Friday.
"For many Utahns, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the best vaccine," said Gov. Spencer Cox in a release. "A single dose gives us the best chance of vaccinating people who are hard to reach by geography, those who are hard to reach because of personal schedules, those who might be less likely to return for a second shot, and even those who don't like needles. We are relieved that these doses will rejoin our arsenal in the fight against COVID-19."
Even though the blood clotting issues are extremely rare — only six cases were detected out of about 6.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines administered in the United States — it's a testament to how strong the country's vaccine safety measures are that the cases were still noticed, Stenehjem said.
"This is an example of this system working," he said.
Due to its relative ease of administration, the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is useful not only for harder-to-reach areas and populations in Utah, but also for developing nations across the world that don't have a strong health care infrastructure, Stenehjem added.
"This is an amazing vaccine for the world," he said.
The new numbers indicate a 0.08% increase in positive cases since Thursday. Of the 2,520,126 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 15.7% have tested positive for the disease. The number of total tests conducted has increased to 4,557,810, up 15,833 since Thursday. Of those, 4,580 were tests of people who hadn't previously been tested for COVID-19, according to the health department.
The death reported was a Utah County man who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was a resident of a long-term care facility.
Friday's totals give Utah 394,678 total confirmed cases, with 16,033 total hospitalizations and 2,179 total deaths from the disease.
Utah officials provided a COVID-19 pandemic update at a Thursday news conference.
Utah's pandemic "endgame" bill, HB294, requires all state and local health orders related to COVID-19 to end on the day that Utah reaches the threshold in three key metrics: the state's 14-day case rate is less than 191 per 100,000 people, the seven-day average of COVID-19 intensive care unit usage is under 15%, and 1,633,000 prime doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been allocated to Utah.
The state is meeting HB294's benchmark in the first two statistics as of Friday. Utah's 14-day case rate is now 166.2 per 100,000 people, and the seven-day COVID-19 ICU usage average is now 11.1%.
A total of 1,416,175 prime doses have been allocated to Utah so far. The state is expected to meet the 1,633,000 prime doses benchmark by the second or third week of May, according to health officials. The first dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine cycles, as well as the sole dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, are considered prime doses.
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.