Southern Utah shatters high for COVID-19 hospitalizations in one day as second vaccine shots begin

Stock image. | Photo by Anton Litvintsev/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The number of Southern Utahns hospitalized in one day for coronavirus broke 70 in the last two days as medical personnel began to receive a second injection to complete their immunization for COVID-19.

FILE – Medical personnel prone a COVID-19 patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles, Calif. Nov. 19, 2020 | Associated Press file photo by Jae C. Hong/Associated Press, St. George News

According to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, there were 75 locals hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday and 69 on Wednesday. The previous high was 61 on Nov. 29.

The local death toll from COVID-19 reached 150 on Wednesday according to the Utah Department of Health, with 54 of those deaths coming in the last month.

The number of new infections was above 300 as well on Wednesday, with 325 new infections. The local health department said there are 8,237 people in Southern Utah currently infected with the virus.

The biggest outbreak is in Beaver County, where with 240 active cases and a population of 6,795, 3.5% of the population of Beaver County is currently infected.

Medical experts, both locally and on the state level, have been bracing for a spike of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths from the holidays. There have now been 12 days passed from Christmas with a five to 14-day gestation period of the virus.

Meanwhile, the number of those receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has now tripled since Friday, according to figures from the Utah Department of Health, with the local health district now operating vaccination clinics at spots in each of the five counties.

At the same time, the Southwest Utah Health District continues to receive supplies of both the vaccines that are sitting in refrigerators awaiting to be administered.

Noel Ramirez, a janitorial worker at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, receives his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Jan. 6, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

According to the Utah Department of Health, as of Wednesday, 11,175 doses of the vaccines have been shipped to Southern Utah and 2,821 does have been administered.

Dr. Tamara Sheffield, medical director of community health and prevention for Intermountain Healthcare, said the public needs to be patient with how the vaccine is being administered.

“All of this depends on logistics. It comes down to how to get the vaccine to those locations and getting the people who are prioritized to those locations,” Sheffield said. “This is a marathon, not a sprint, because there is a limit to the number of hours we have and the number of people who give the vaccinations.”

In a preview of how most people who want the vaccine in Southern Utah will get it, Southwest Utah Public Health Department started vaccine clinics this week. Along with medical workers, including dentists and pharmacists, the department has now added first responders to those who can make an appointment to receive the vaccine. This includes police officers and firefighters.

This is in contradiction to previous assertions by both the state and local health departments that K-12 teachers and staff would be next in line to receive the vaccine, though they are still expected to follow the first responders.

Links for non-hospital medical workers and first responders to set an appointment for their vaccine can be found at the end of this article. 

While more Southern Utahns are receiving their first dose of the vaccine, the first people locally are getting their second injection of the vaccine that is needed to complete their immunization from COVID-19, which includes those at St. George Regional Hospital who were among the first people to get the first doses of vaccine on Dec. 16.

A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine seen in late-December 2020. | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

Based on the trials of the vaccine, it is the second dose that is more likely to have side effects like fever, headaches and chills over 24 to 48 hours. A Cedar City resident who was part of the Moderna vaccine trial mentioned having “two miserable days” after his second shot but also having no regrets for getting the shot and remaining virus-free despite multiple exposures to it since.

Sheffield said that other than sore arms, less than 3% of the approximately 25,000 Intermountain workers who received an initial dose of the vaccine had fevers as a side effect, though she expects more from the second dose.

Sophie Woodbury, a surgical nurse at Intermountain Hospital in Murray, Utah, got her second dose Tuesday. She said the second dose has had worse side effects, but nothing a couple of Advil can’t take care of. 

“After my first dose, I had zero side effects. (Wednesday) morning, I woke up with a headache and ibuprofen did the trick,” Woodbury said, adding the days at work treating COVID-19 patients are still tough but she has a new peace of mind since being vaccinated. “When I have the hard days, I don’t have to feel so doomed … that there is an end to this pandemic, and I am fighting.”

Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

  • Those who can currently get the vaccine: Those that work in non-hospital health care facilities (those in clinics, pharmacies, dentists or other medical offices); First responders including law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs.
  • Must register in advance online for an appointment time (must call to register in Beaver County). Walk-ins will not be accepted.
  • Must have a personal ID, employment ID and wear a short-sleeve shirt at appointment.
  • Vaccines through the Southwest Utah Public Health Department are free of charge.

Washington County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department St. George office, 620 S 400 East, 2nd Floor Conference Room, St. George, 84770.

When: Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Monday Jan. 11 to Thursday Jan. 14, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Click to register for Thursday

Click to register for any other day

Iron County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Cedar City office, 260 DL Sargent Dr., Cedar City, 84721.

When: Tuesday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Click to register

Kane County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Kanab office, 445 N. Main St., Kanab 84741.

When: Jan. 13, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Click to register

Garfield County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Panguitch office, 601 Center St. Panguitch 84759.

When: Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Click to register

Beaver County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Beaver Office,  75 1175 North, Beaver 84713.

When: Tuesday 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Click to register

COVID-19 information resources

St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.

Check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Jan. 6, 2020, seven-day average in parentheses)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 18,693 (234.9 new infections per day in seven days, rising since Dec. 31)

  • Southwest Utah Public Health Department did not release county-by-county numbers Wednesday and said there is now a 24-hour delay.

New infections for major Southern Utah cities (numbers released ahead of Southern Utah numbers):

  • St. George: 137 (rising)
  • Washington City: 34 (falling)
  • Hurricane/LaVerkin: 33 (rising)
  • Ivins City/Santa Clara: 14 (falling)
  • Cedar City: 51 (rising)

Deaths: 150 (2 per day, rising)

  • Washington County: 124 (8 new since Dec. 31 report: Hospitalized male 45-64, hospitalized female 65-84, hospitalized male 65-84, female over 85 at home, female over 85 at home, hospitalized male 45-64, hospitalized male 65-84, long-term care female over 85)
  • Iron County: 15 
  • Garfield County: 7 
  • Kane County: 2
  • Beaver County: 2

Hospitalized: 69 (rising)

Active cases: 8,237 (rising)

Current Utah seven-day average: 2,963 (rising)

Vaccines shipped to  Southern Utah: 11,175 (+1,300)

Number of initial vaccine injections in Southern Utah: 2,821 (+2,101)

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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