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Utah at risk of regressing back to high pandemic levels, Henderson warns

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson provides pandemic update in this May 13, 2021 photo. Utah reported 313 new COVID-19 cases, one death and over 9,000 vaccinations on Thursday.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson provides pandemic update in this May 13, 2021 photo. Utah reported 313 new COVID-19 cases, one death and over 9,000 vaccinations on Thursday. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)



SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson warned Thursday that if people continue waiting to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the state is at risk of regressing back to pandemic levels as severe as last year.

Just under 17,000 vaccine doses were administered over the past week. But the state needs to see at least 51,000 doses of vaccine administered if it wants to reach the goal of seeing 70% of Utah adults have at least their first dose of the vaccine by July 4.

If more Utahns aren't vaccinated, the COVID-19 variants could take hold in the state and the pandemic could start all over again, Henderson said.

"We do not want to go back to where we were last year."


Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and Utah Department of Health Deputy Director Dr. Michelle Hofmann spoke at a COVID-19 news conference Thursday morning. Watch the replay of the event below.


State asking businesses to incentivize vaccinations

Henderson asked businesses to start encouraging their employees to get vaccinated and to provide incentives for their employees to get vaccinated, if possible.

"It's time for businesses to start offering incentives to their employees," she said.

Incentives could include providing paid time off to employees who need to recover from the side effects of the vaccine, Henderson said. Businesses could also provide cash incentives, she said.

Businesses can also request to host pop-up vaccine clinics at their workplace to provide employees with access to the vaccine, Henderson said. There is no minimum number of employees a business has to have in order to request a clinic, she added.

Information about requesting events is available at coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine-event-request.

About 89% of all Utahns ages 65 and older have received at least a first dose of the vaccine, Henderson said. And about 20.1% of kids have at least a first dose, she said.

"Which is really great progress, but we can do better," Henderson said.

Parents should make plans to get their children vaccinated, or have a conversation with their primary care providers if they have questions about the vaccine, she said.

She reminded people that the COVID-19 vaccines don't alter your DNA, affect fertility or give you COVID-19. People who have other questions or concerns about getting the vaccine should meet with their doctors, she said.

New COVID-19 cases

Utah's number of COVID-19 cases increased by 313 on Thursday, with one more death and 9,182 vaccinations reported, according to the Utah Department of Health.

The health department estimates there are now 5,367 active COVID-19 cases in Utah. That estimate is higher than the 5,316 cases estimated on Wednesday.

The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 276, up from 208 last week, according to Dr. Michelle Hofmann, the health department's deputy director.

The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "people over people" method is now 6.6%, the same as last week, Hofmann said. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "test over test" method is now 4.3%, a slight increase from last week, she added.

"We are experiencing a slight increase in cases right now," Hofmann said.

It isn't clear if the spike in cases is related to the Memorial Day holiday weekend, but it's possible, she said, adding that there is no specific geographic area in Utah where the spike is centralized.

People who aren't vaccinated need to continue wearing masks until they get vaccinated in order to stop the spread of the disease, she said. "It's really a reminder that we're not out of the woods."

There are 155 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Utah, including 55 in intensive care, state data shows. About 75% of intensive care unit hospital beds are now occupied in Utah, including about 79% in the state's 16 referral hospitals, according to the health department. About 57% of non-ICU hospital beds are now occupied.

A total of 2,676,026 vaccine doses have been administered in the state, up from 2,666,844 Wednesday. A total of 1,521,715 Utahns, or about 47.5% of the total population, have now received at least one dose of the vaccine, state data shows. A total of 1,271,608 Utahns, or 39.7% of the population, are now fully vaccinated.

Among Utahns ages 12 and older, who are currently eligible to receive the vaccine, about 58.7% have received at least a first vaccine dose, and 49.1% are fully vaccinated, according to the health department. State data shows 3,177,934 vaccine doses have been shipped to Utah so far.

Since vaccine eligibility opened up to all Utah adults in mid-March, there have been about 22,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, Henderson said Thursday. About 99% of those cases were among unvaccinated people, and about 95% of COVID-19 hospitalizations since then have been unvaccinated people, she added.

Additionally, 62 out of the 64 COVID-19 deaths recorded since mid-March have been unvaccinated people, Henderson said.

The state also added new data to the health department's COVID-19 dashboard showing vaccine doses that have been administered by federal agencies in Utah, including the Indian Health Service, Veterans Administration, Department of Defense and Bureau of Prisons. A total of 50,158 doses have been administered in Utah through those agencies, including 28,271 first doses.

Thursday's new numbers indicate a 0.08% increase in positive cases since Wednesday. Of the 2,728,178 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 15% have tested positive for the disease. The number of total tests conducted since the pandemic began is now at 4,989,045, up 7,261 since Wednesday, according to the health department. Of those, 4,171 were tests of people who hadn't previously been tested for COVID-19.

The single death reported Thursday was a Davis County man between 45 and 64 years old who was hospitalized when he died.

Thursday's totals give Utah 408,741 total confirmed cases, with 17,038 total hospitalizations and 2,319 total deaths from the disease. An estimated 401,055 Utah COVID-19 cases are now considered recovered, according to the health department.

Methodology

See more details about KSL.com's COVID-19 data and methodology by clicking this link.

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.

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