SALT LAKE CITY — A little over a week after adolescents ages 12-15 became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Utah is leading the nation in vaccine uptake for that group, according to Gov. Spencer Cox.
Nationally, about 4% of kids ages 12-15 have now had at least a first dose of the vaccine, Cox said at a news conference Thursday morning. But in Utah, about 9% of that age group has at least a first shot, representing about 20,000 kids, the governor added.
The state has also seen an influx of people in older age groups coming in to receive their first vaccine dose since the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved for use in the 12-15 age group, Cox said.
"That was good news to see that more and more people were getting out over the past week," the governor said during the news conference on PBS Utah.
As older populations have become more widely vaccinated, hospitalizations have gone down, Cox said. In October, the 65-84 age group had the highest hospitalization rate of any age group in Utah, he said. But when vaccines became available for those adults, the hospitalization rates went down: In April, the 65-84 age group was the third-most hospitalized, behind the 45-64 and 25-44 age groups, the governor said.
"It shows that vaccinations absolutely work," Cox said.
However, the vaccination uptake rates for the 45-64 and 25-44 age groups haven't been as high as that of the 65-84 group, Cox said, so he reminded people to get vaccinated if they haven't already. About 88% of Utahns age 65 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, and 77% are fully vaccinated.
Though Utah's pandemic outlook continues to improve in many areas, for the first time since early March, total intensive care unit usage rates in Utah hospitals went above 72% earlier this week, according to Cox. That's considered to be a high usage rate, although not all those beds are occupied with COVID-19 patients, he said.
"We just want to make people aware that if you have not been vaccinated, that you should still wear a mask and exercise caution," Cox said.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox provided a COVID-19 pandemic update at a news conference with PBS Utah Thursday morning. Watch the replay of the event below.
Thursday's COVID-19 cases
Utah's number of COVID-19 cases increased by 266 on Thursday, with four more deaths and 19,236 vaccinations reported, according to the Utah Department of Health.
There are now an estimated 6,989 active COVID-19 cases in Utah. That's the first time that estimate has been below 7,000 since June 17, 2020, according to state data.
The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 291, according to the health department. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "people over people" method is now 6.3%. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "test over test" method is now 3.4%.
There are 139 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Utah, including 57 in intensive care, state data shows. About 76% of intensive care unit beds in Utah are now occupied, including about 79% of ICU beds in the state's 16 referral hospitals. About 58% of non-ICU hospital beds are now occupied in Utah, health department data shows.
A total of 2,464,088 vaccine doses have been administered in the state, up from 2,444,852 Wednesday. A total of 1,424,211 Utahns have now received at least a first vaccine dose, and 1,144,733 are now fully vaccinated, according to state data. A total of 2,976,893 doses have been shipped to the state so far.
About 54.9% of Utahns ages 12 and older have now received at least a first dose of the vaccine, and 44.2% are fully vaccinated, according to the Utah Department of Health. For the state's overall population, about 44.4% of people had received a first dose and 35.7% were fully vaccinated as of Thursday.
The new numbers indicate a 0.07% increase in positive cases since Wednesday. Of the 2,653,810 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 15.2% have tested positive for the disease. The number of total tests conducted since Utah's pandemic began is now at 4,848,277, up 9,128 since Wednesday. Of those, 4,445 were tests of people who had not previously been tested for COVID-19.
The four deaths reported Thursday were:
- A Davis County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was hospitalized when he died
- A Summit County man who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when he died
- A Washington County man who was between the ages of 25 and 44 and was hospitalized when he died
- A Weber County man who was over the age of 85 and was hospitalized when he died
Thursday's totals give Utah 403,684 total confirmed cases, with 16,615 total hospitalizations and 2,279 total deaths from the disease. An estimated 394,416 Utah COVID-19 cases are now considered recovered, according to the health department.
COVID-19 case count numbers continue to improve
The rolling seven-day average for positive COVID-19 cases is down to 291 per day, health officials said. That is down from 328 last week, Cox said. The governor initially said the seven-day average was reported at 312 for Thursday, but health officials later clarified it's now at 291.
The last time that average was that low was last June, Cox added.
A previous goal for state leaders was to see that rolling average drop below 400, Cox said. Now, it is below 300.
"We're continuing to see those numbers come down," he said.
In addition to the announcement of vaccine eligibility for the 12-15 age group leading to an uptick in vaccinations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recent guidance recommending that people who are fully vaccinated don't need to wear masks in most settings has also led to a bump in vaccinations, Cox said.
The updated CDC guidelines have provided a further incentive to get vaccinated because people don't want to wear masks anymore, the governor said. So, some are getting vaccinated so they will no longer have to wear masks.
Cox said he was glad to see some CDC guidance that is more straightforward after previous directives from the agency have led to some confusion.
"I believe it couldn't be more correct," he said.
Cox previously discussed a lottery-style cash giveaway for people who have been vaccinated or plan to be vaccinated as a further incentive to convince people to get the shot. However, the state legislature declined to allocate funding for such a giveaway during the first day of their special session Wednesday.
Cox didn't discuss any alternative incentives during Thursday's news conference, though he has asked for people to send him any suggestions.
Summit County currently leads the state in vaccine uptake, with about 66% of county residents age 12 and older having received a first dose, Cox said.
Health department demographics show that while the state has made an effort to increase vaccine equity, there is still a gap.
Just under 42% of Asian adults in Utah have received at least a first dose of the vaccine, while 34.6% of Hispanic adults, 24% of Black adults and 23.4% of native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander adults in Utah have received a first dose, according to the health department. Comparatively, about 50.5% of white Utah adults have received a first dose.
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.