During Thursday’s weekly press conference, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, along with Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and Dr. Angela Dunn, talked about the decrease in COVID-19 cases in Utah. The governor also addressed the rollout of the new COVID-19 vaccine.
According to Cox, as governor, one of his commitments is to focus on the fundamentals surrounding the virus. These fundamentals include an increase in testing and vaccine distribution.
He believes significant strides have been made in those areas over the past week.
“We are increasing testing and our positivity rate is going down,” he said.
Dunn also gave an update on the numbers. She said the rolling seven-day average of new cases is now 2,575. This is a decrease from last week when the state was at 2,952. Percent positivity also decreased to 26% from 32.7%.
“We are certainly moving in the right direction and it’s so promising that the really high case counts we saw last week were not sustained,” Dunn said.
However, she warned that people still need to do their part to stop the spread of the virus. Hospitals continue to be overwhelmed, which is a major concern for the administration.
Cox thanked the distributors for helping them get the vaccine out so quickly.
According to the governor, 133,202 doses were distributed this week. He added that this is significant because 68,300 were distributed last week.
This means they were able to double the number of vaccines administered in just one week.
Even though the federal government is now recommending that states should make the vaccine available to individuals 65 and older, Cox said, in Utah, the target group will continue to be 70 and older.
There are a few reasons for this.
First, there are currently not enough vaccines to go around. There are so many individuals over 70 who want the vaccine, that changing the number to 65 will not guarantee that everyone who wants one can get one.
Also, those 70 and older, and in long-term care facilities, account for 73% of deaths in Utah.
“I know everyone is anxious to get in line to get the vaccine, please know that we will do everything possible, as those vaccines are available to us, to open it up even more broadly,” Cox said.
He added that he fully anticipates by the end of February and early March to be able to open it to 65 and older and those with multiple comorbidities, or multiple serious illnesses.
“Be patient. I know it’s coming; the weeks are going to fly by,” he said.
Cox also asked Henderson to visit all local health departments this week.
Henderson said their current objective is to remove barriers so that nothing slows the rate of vaccination.
Henderson also wanted to encourage the public by ensuring them that the vaccine is safe.
“There are so many people incredibly grateful to be getting these vaccines and we are just grateful for the work and the support of everyone throughout the state,” she said.
Cox was questioned about some of the early difficulties people had making appointments. People wanting to book an appointment for the vaccine had to deal with overloaded phone lines, crashed websites and the fact that some counties had no vaccine information available on their sites.
Cox was asked if he threw Utah’s counties into the pool without sufficient resources.
He responded that local districts asked for this and are still getting ready for this.
However, he added that all these difficulties were “music to our ears” because it means that there is a high demand for the vaccine.
“We told people last week that this is going to be bumpy and we need to be patient.”
According to the governor, The Department of Technology Services has reached out to the county health departments to volunteer their services for technological difficulties in the future.