ST. GEORGE — By Thursday night, the freezers and refrigerators containing doses of the COVID-19 vaccine locally will be empty, according to the local health department.
David Heaton, spokesperson for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, said the local health department will have used up all of its supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of the day Thursday. He said the department has provided the first dose of the vaccine to 4,200 residents.
“And that’s also all the vaccine we’ve received thus far,” Heaton said. “We’ll get another shipment for next week’s clinics.”
Last week, Gov. Spencer Cox ordered that local health departments needed to clear out vaccine doses received within a week.
The local health department, while resolving issues on the vaccine portion of its web site, said it will not be opening up online reservations for those 70 and over.
However, there remain slots open for K-12 school-staff vaccination clinics next week.
In addition, for teachers and school staff in Washington County, an additional clinic with 700 reservation slots has been opened up for Friday and next week at the BLU-MED tent near the emergency area of St. George Regional Hospital.
The clinics will use excess supply at the hospital from the vaccinations of its personnel.
Links for K-12 school staff to set an appointment for their vaccine can be found at the end of this article.
Governor addressing glitches, high demand of 70-and-over vaccine rollout
During his second COVID-19 press conference of his administration on Thursday, Gov. Spencer Cox said a combination of technical issues, amount of personnel and funding is hindering local health districts as they tackle the largest group yet that has reached the front of the line for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Southwest Utah Public Health Department has seen its own share of issues, especially on the technical side as its website has been down for parts of this week.
Cox said help is on the way, but patience will be a virtue as it is expected to take a month and a half to cover the 70 and over group.
“This shows there is so much demand that this is going to overwhelm systems,” Cox said. “This is going to be bumpy and people need to be patient.”
Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson has spent this week touring local health districts, including the Southwest Utah Public Health Department office in Cedar City.
Henderson said Thursday those visits have helped her identify what is getting in the way of getting those 70 and over vaccinated.
“Some of the barriers are personnel, technology and funding issues,” Henderson said. “We’re trying to remove those barriers.”
Cox said to remedy those barriers he has sent workers with the state’s Department of Technology Services to aid local health departments, enlisted the National Guard for personnel needs and is working with the Utah Office of Management and Budget to find funding sources for the local health departments.
The governor said his orders last week to speed up vaccine distribution have resulted in a doubling in one week of the number of Utahns that have had the first of two vaccine shots.
Henderson added the state is looking to find a way to accommodate the members of the older population who may not have an email address or the means to use the online reservation system most local departments are using, including Southwest Public Health.
While the Centers for Disease Control recommended Wednesday that states move to immediately start vaccinating those 65 and over, Cox said Utah will stick to its current plan until more vaccine supplies arrive.
“The main reason is we have so many 70 and over that adding 65 to the mix would affect availability because we don’t have enough vaccine assigned to Utah to cover that,” Cox said, adding that covering those 70 and over – as well as the vaccinations nearly complete at long-term/nursing home – will account for groups that have made up 73% of the deaths from COVID-19 in Utah.
“As soon as enough vaccine is available, we will make the vaccine available to those 65 and over,” Cox said. “We will do everything possible to open that up.”
Post-Christmas COVID-19 surge was short-lived, but hospitals still reeling
If people thought the holidays went by quickly, the post-holiday COVID-19 surge appears to have been just as fleeting.
Like a wave receding, the increasing number of new infections seen last week has given way to infection rates and test positivity in retreat statewide this week. But something not receding are the slim capacity margins at hospitals, including St. George Regional Hospital where some patients are now having to go immediately home after surgeries because of a lack of rooms.
It’s so promising that the high case counts we saw last week are not sustained, but our hospitals remain overwhelmed,” Dr. Angela Dunn, the state epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, said.
Locally, while new infections are still in the triple-digits, they have been hovering around a third less than they had been for the last few months with spikes and surges seemingly being never ending since October.
For the first time in months Friday, some local cities registered only single-digits in new infections – the Hurricane/LaVerkin and Ivins City/Santa Clara areas. The one anomaly in Southern Utah right now is Cedar City, which is the only area of the five-counties still seeing an increase in infections.
In the last week, the state’s overall positivity rate of COVID-19 tests has gone down from 37.2% to 26%. While the goal is for test positivity to be at 10% and below, for a pandemic to be considered under control, Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious diseases specialist at Intermountain Healthcare, said the declining positivity rate is a very promising sign.
“That usually predicts a decrease in cases,” Stenehjem said, adding it is needed as hospitalizations statewide have returned to the high levels seen at the start of December. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we had a limited holiday surge. If we have continued sustained reduction in cases, our hospitalizations will drop.”
Cox said the state is “finally” at the point where anyone who wants a test for COVID-19 can get it immediately, including at rapid test sites locally where a result is provided less than 30 minutes after the test is given.
Allowing quick and easy access to testing has been a goal of the Utah Department of Health since the start of the pandemic in March. As to why it has taken so long to get to this point, Cox put the responsibility on the federal government.
“When the story of the pandemic is written, the best thing will be the vaccine. The worst part besides the politicization will be that the federal government didn’t go all out on testing,” Cox said. “All the states had to compete with each other. It has been a huge struggle for every state to get the testing they need.”
Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine
- Those who can currently get the vaccine: K-12 teachers and staff, those that work in nonhospital health care facilities (those in clinics, pharmacies, dentists or other medical offices) and first responders, including law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs.
- Those who can get the vaccine starting Jan. 18: Everyone ages 70 and over.
- Must register in advance online for an appointment time. Walk-ins will not be accepted.
- Must have a personal ID, employment ID and wear a short-sleeve shirt at appointment.
- Vaccines are free of charge.
Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department St. George office, 620 S 400 East, 2nd Floor Conference Room, St. George, 84770 and St. George Regional Hospital, 1380 E. Medical Center Dr., St. George, 84790.
When: K-12 teachers and staff-only clinics Tuesday, Wednesday and Jan. 21 from noon to 7 p.m., at Southwest Utah Public Health and at St. George Regional on Friday (1:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.), Wednesday (3 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.), Jan. 22 (1 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.).
Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Cedar City office, 260 DL Sargent Dr., Cedar City, 84721.
When: K-12 teachers and staff-only clinics Tuesday and Jan. 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Kanab office, 445 N. Main St., Kanab 84741.
When: Jan. 20, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Panguitch office, 601 Center St. Panguitch 84759.
When: No dates scheduled currently
Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Beaver Office, 75 1175 North, Beaver 84713.
When: K-12 teachers and staff-only clinic Tuesday 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
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.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Utah Department of Health
- Safe Southern Utah
- Información sobre coronavirus en español
- To file complaint about non-compliance with mask mandate
- Intermountain Healthcare
- To Donate and Volunteer to Help
Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Jan. 14 2020, seven-day average in parentheses)
Positive COVID-19 tests: 22,178 (215.3 new infections per day in seven days, falling since Jan. 13)
County-by-county numbers are one day behind.
- Washington County: 17,000 (146.7 per day, falling)
- Iron County: 3,946 (56 per day, rising)
- Kane County: 376 (3.6 per day, steady)
- Garfield County: 378 (3.4 per day, falling)
- Beaver County: 478 (5.6 per day, rising)
New infections for major Southern Utah cities (numbers released ahead of Southern Utah numbers):
- St. George: 75 (falling)
- Washington City: 17 (falling)
- Hurricane/LaVerkin: 8 (falling)
- Ivins City/Santa Clara: 9 (falling)
- Cedar City: 63 (rising)
Deaths: 175 (3.1 per day, rising)
- Washington County: 133 (2 new since last report: Hospitalized female 65-84, hospitalized male 65-84)
- Iron County: 18 (1 new: Hospitalized male 65-84)
- Garfield County: 7
- Kane County: 2
- Beaver County: 3
Hospitalized: 66 (falling)
Active cases: 8,510 (rising)
Current Utah seven-day average: 2,575 (falling)
Vaccines distribution to Southern Utah data unavailable Thursday
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.