Utah governor asks for patience as vaccine rollout experiences hiccups

SALT LAKE CITY — Health departments have experienced higher than anticipated interest in the COVID-19 vaccine, and with that has come myriad logistical issues.

“I know everyone is anxious to get in line to get the vaccine,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said on Thursday. “We are trying to do everything possible to open it up more broadly.”

He asked for continued patience from all Utahns as the system gets ramped up.

Most locations won’t begin distribution of their allotment of COVID-19 vaccines until Monday, Cox said.

To date, the state has administered 133,202 doses of the vaccine, nearly double the 68,030 doses reported by the Utah Department of Health a week ago.

The expansion of the state’s vaccination program is not without its shortfalls, however, and Cox said the state is working to get the shots into the arms of people as quickly as possible.

The health department reported 2,742 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as well as 11 more deaths from the disease. In addition, 16,231 more people were tested since Wednesday, which is significantly more than the state has previously been reaching.

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said ramped up manufacturing and the now widespread availability of a new rapid antigen test has made it possible to test more people — a goal of the state since early in the pandemic.

“We have flooded 33 communities with rapid testing,” she said during the governor’s weekly briefing on COVID-19, adding that these are communities that were experiencing high case numbers or limited testing capacities. “It helps to identify cases more quickly and slow the spread.”

Increased testing is helping decrease case numbers, Dunn said. Utah’s seven-day average test positivity rate dropped from nearly 33% a week ago to 26% on Thursday. The average number of daily cases, too, are down about 400 from last week.

The health department reports 559 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout Utah, which is fewer than earlier this week, but still more than is ideal, as 96% of referral ICU beds are being used.

The death toll in Utah now stands at 1,460.

The COVID-19 deaths reported on Thursday include:

  • A Davis County man between the age of 45 and 64 who was hospitalized at the time of his death.
  • A Kane County man between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • An Iron County man between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Utah County man older than 85 who was hospitalized.
  • A Utah County man between 65 and 84 who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • A Salt Lake County woman between 65 and 84 who was not hospitalized.
  • A Washington County woman between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Washington County man between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • Two Weber County men between 65 and 84 who were hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County woman between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.

New COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday by health district:

  • Salt Lake County, 869
  • Utah County, 705
  • Davis County, 293
  • Weber-Morgan, 223
  • Southwest Utah, 201
  • Bear River, 128
  • Central Utah, 86
  • Tooele County, 69
  • Summit County, 55
  • Wasatch County, 41
  • Southeast Utah, 19
  • San Juan County, 19
  • TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 15

This story will be updated.