SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah leaders seek to get 70% of all adults vaccinated against COVID-19 with at least one dose by July 4, thousands of businesses were urged Tuesday to support their employees in getting vaccinated.
The Salt Lake Chamber sent out a letter to 10,000 businesses Tuesday asking them to support employees who want to get vaccinated as part of a "Bring It Home" campaign. All of the businesses who got the letter took the state of Utah's "Stay Safe to Stay Open" pledge last year, promising to follow best health practices in order to keep the state's economy running during the pandemic.
Those best practices now include vaccinating employees who work at the businesses, state leaders said Tuesday in a news release announcing the campaign.
"Our effort now is to 'Bring It Home' with a flash campaign that encourages the same businesses — as well as all Utah businesses — to assist their employees in protecting themselves, their families, and their place of business by getting vaccinated," Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said.
Let's Bring It Home! To protect one another and help achieve community immunity against COVID-19 our goal is to have 70% of Utahns over the age of 18 vaccinated by July 4th. Find out where you can get vaccinated at: https://t.co/doaOIRrM5e. pic.twitter.com/DJaOVKxDS0— Salt Lake Chamber (@saltlakechamber) June 15, 2021
Currently, about 64.1% of all Utah adults have received at least one dose, so the 70% goal by July 4 is attainable, according to Utah Department of Health communications director Tom Hudachko.
"It's a goal that we are certainly continuing to strive towards," Hudachko told KSL.com Tuesday. "We need the help of everybody out there in our communities who hasn't been vaccinated yet."
It's thought that 70% to 90% of people need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 within a population for that population to achieve herd immunity, where the disease no longer spreads throughout the community. Other U.S. states, including New York, have already reached that point, but Utah still has some ground to make up.
Health officials knew that they would be able to reach those Utahns who were enthusiastic about getting the vaccine relatively quickly when eligibility opened up to all adults in the state, and they were able to do that, Hudachko said. But within the last six to eight weeks, demand for the vaccine has softened, and health officials are tasked with reaching people who are more hesitant to get the vaccine or who haven't made it a priority to get their shots, he added.
"We need to find ways to make it more convenient for those individuals to prioritize the vaccine and to actually go out and get it," he said.
The "Bring It Home" business outreach campaign should help with that. Businesses, as well as churches, community organizations and other groups, can request to host a mobile vaccine clinic at their offices through the health department if they want to bring vaccine access directly to their employees.
Additionally, the health department is working on a similar campaign with faith leaders throughout the state so they can bring the vaccine message to their congregations, Hudachko said.
People who are holding out on getting vaccinated, but might still get it in the future, tend to have questions about the side effects and safety of the vaccine, as well as the efficacy of the shots, Hudachko said. They also have questions about the process by which the vaccines were produced.
To address those questions, a public education effort focused on showcasing trusted voices, such as health care providers, speaking about safety and efficacy of vaccines is also being distributed through social media, local news outlets and billboards in communities where vaccinations need a boost.
Health care providers have also been given a "toolkit" for how to approach those conversations with their patients, Hudachko said. The toolkit includes a form letter that providers can send out to their patients that addresses some of those questions.
"There's a lot of things in the works that are designed as ... a micropush over the course of the next couple weeks," Hudachko said. "These conversations can continue after July 4 regardless of if we reach 70% or not."
Further public outreach efforts in the "Bring It Home" campaign will spotlight availability of mobile vaccination clinics across the state, and will raise awareness among minority populations and underserved groups highlight information and access to vaccines, the news release said.
"We are closer than ever to putting this pandemic behind us," Rich Saunders, the health department's executive director, said in a prepared statement. "We need more of our citizens to become vaccinated in order to reach a higher level of immunity in our communities, and to avoid a resurgence in the fall."
Utah is still at a disadvantage because about 30% of its population is under the age of 18, Hudachko said. But since vaccine eligibility opened up to children ages 12 and older, there has been a fairly strong vaccine uptake rate among Utahns age 12-17, he added.
But the age group where health officials would really like to see vaccine rate improvement is young adults in the 25-44 age group, Hudachko said.
It isn't clear exactly why that demographic isn't getting vaccinated, he said. Young adults are traditionally more difficult to reach with any sort of public outreach or messaging, and they tend to underutilize health care, Hudachko added.
Though the state has set the 70% goal, it's a somewhat arbitrary number, Hudachko said. Health officials will continue asking people to get vaccinated for as long as they will listen, whether or not the state hits that goal by July 4.
"It's a goal, it's something that we work towards," Hudachko said. "There's no magic number where we stop."
New COVID-19 cases
There are now an estimated 5,478 active COVID-19 cases in Utah. The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 274, according to the health department. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "people over people" method is now 7.2%. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "test over test" method is now 4.7%.
There are 153 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Utah, including 58 in intensive care units, state data shows. About 71% of ICU hospital beds in Utah are now occupied, including about 75% of ICU beds in the state's 16 referral hospitals, according to the health department. About 53% of the state's non-ICU hospital beds are now occupied.
A total of 2,751,008 vaccine doses have been administered in the state, up from 2,738,493 Monday. About 48.4% of Utah's population — a total of 1,552,636 Utahns — have now received at least a first dose of the vaccine, according to the health department. About 41.2% of the state population, or 1,320,039 Utahns, are now fully vaccinated, state data shows.
Just under 60% of Utahns ages 12 and older — the group that is currently eligible to receive the vaccine — have received at least a first vaccine dose, and 50.9% are fully vaccinated, according to the health department. A total of 3,192,004 vaccine doses have been shipped to the state since the pandemic began.
The new numbers indicate a 0.06% increase in positive cases since Monday. Of the 2,743,511 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 14.9% have tested positive for the disease. The number of total tests conducted in Utah since the pandemic started is now 5,016,066, an increase of 5,015 since Monday. Of those, 2,909 were tests of people who hadn't previously been tested for COVID-19.
Tuesday's totals give Utah 409,964 total confirmed cases, with 17,134 total hospitalizations and 2,323 total deaths from the disease. An estimated 402,163 Utah COVID-19 cases are now considered recovered, according to the health department.
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.