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SALT LAKE CITY — All adults in Utah are now eligible for COVID-19 booster vaccines because all communities in the state are seeing high transmission rates of the disease, Gov. Spencer Cox announced Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Utah health officials confirmed 1,789 new COVID-19 cases, as well as 13 additional deaths. The rolling, seven-day average of new cases is 1,633 per day, and the positive rate of those tested is 16.6%, according to a daily update from the Utah Department of Health.
Fighting COVID-19 with vaccination and medication
Beginning on Friday, vaccine providers in Utah are being asked to offer booster shots to any adult in Utah who would like to receive one, Cox said during his monthly PBS news conference.
Anyone age 18 and older who received a second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna more than six months ago — as well as adults who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine more than two months ago — is eligible.
Pointing to widespread confusion over eligibility, Cox said the state wants to make the process simple and help make people "as safe as possible" going into the holidays.
Nationally, booster shots are available to adults 18 and older who live or work in high-risk settings, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
"We are grateful for the governor's support of the COVID vaccine, and strongly encourage everyone eligible to be fully vaccinated, and receive the booster when appropriate," Dr. Tamara Sheffield, Intermountain Healthcare medical director of preventive medicine, said in a statement issued Thursday. "This is also an excellent time for 5- to 11-year-old children to be vaccinated, since they can then receive their second dose prior to Christmas."
Cox said over 44,000 kids ages 5-11 have received their first dose of the vaccine in the two weeks they have been available to that age group.
"To get 44,000 kids in just two weeks, by the way, that's 12.1% of those who are eligible. So we're very excited about that," Cox said.
Meanwhile, 228,000 of Utah teens age 12-18 have received their first dose, or 61.2% of those eligible, he added.
The governor also celebrated oral antiviral treatment options "on the horizon," that will likely become more widely available soon.
"These medications will initially be limited in supply and reserved for those most at risk for hospitalization and death. They will also require a prescription and a visit to a provider's office," Cox said.
Emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration is expected to be given within the next few weeks, he noted. The state is preparing a distribution plan to get the drugs to those who need them in the state.
Utah has also ramped up its system for administering monoclonal antibody treatments, Cox said. Last week, the state provided more than 1,000 of those treatments.
But he said he wanted to emphasize that vaccination remains the best way for people to protect themselves and those around them. Cox urged Utahns to get at least one dose of the vaccine by Thanksgiving if they haven't already done so.
This week, the Governor's Office of Economic Development also announced a new grant for small businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees who work 40 hours or more. The program helps them pay employees for time off to get the vaccine, to get their kids vaccinated, or if they need time off for side effects after receiving the vaccine. The grant includes $500,000 available funds, and applications opened on Nov. 16.
"Dozens of companies have already applied, but there are still funds available," Cox said.
Businesses can apply by Jan. 20. More information is available at business.utah.gov/sbevgrant.
New Utah cases
School-age children accounted for 441 of the new cases Thursday — 225 cases were ages 5-10, 108 were 11-13, and 108 were 14-17, the Utah Department of Health said.
Health care workers confirmed 17,676 new vaccine doses since the previous day's report, bringing total doses given in the state to 3,991,946.
In the last 28 days, unvaccinated residents have experienced 16.5 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 9.8 times greater risk of hospitalization, and 4.3 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than vaccinated people in Utah, according to the health department.
Since Feb. 1, people who are unvaccinated are at 7.9 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 6.6 times greater risk of being hospitalized due to COVID-19, and 3.2 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than vaccinated people, health officials said.
Of the cases confirmed Thursday, 509 were "breakthroughs," meaning they had been fully vaccinated more than two weeks earlier. The state also reported one breakthrough death. Since vaccines became available earlier this year, 37,136 breakthrough cases and 229 breakthrough deaths have been confirmed in Utah.
The latest deaths include:
- A Salt Lake County man between the ages of 25 and 44, who was hospitalized when he died
- A Uintah County man, 65-84, hospitalized
- A Duchesne County woman, 45-64, hospitalized
- A Davis County woman, 45-64, hospitalized
- A Salt Lake County woman, 25-44, hospitalized
- A Salt Lake County man, 45-64, hospitalized
- A Davis County man, 65-84, hospitalized
- A Beaver County man, 65-84, hospitalized
- A Utah County woman, 65-84, hospitalized
- A Utah County man, 65-84, not hospitalized
- A Utah County man, 45-64, hospitalized
- A Weber County woman, 45-64, hospitalized
- A Salt Lake County man, 65-84, hospitalized