Governor lowers COVID-19 alert level in Beaver County, stands firm on mask mandate staying in schools

Stock photo. | Photo by JJ Gouin, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Beaver County was lowered in the state’s COVID-19 Transmission Index on Thursday, effectively ending, for now, mandatory COVID-19 restrictions throughout Southern Utah with the exception of the mask mandate. 

File photo of Beaver City’s downtown area on the Interstate 15 business loop. Beaver City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of; Cedar City/St. George News

And while by legislative order that order for face coverings in public settings is scheduled to end April 10, Gov. Spencer Cox reaffirmed that the mask mandate in K-12 schools will continue and added it will also continue in state buildings.

Beaver County became the last county in Southern Utah to move out of “High” in the COVID-19 Transmission Index. 

What that means for Beaver County is they join the rest of Southern Utah in a moderate-or-less index where COVID-19 restrictions on spacing in restaurants, businesses and entertainment spaces are no longer mandatory. In fact, for the first time since the index began in October, there were no counties in Utah in the high level.

“Almost every metric is going down,” Cox said.

“This means everything we are doing in Utah is working, and we need to continue to do those things,” he said during his weekly COVID-19 press conference held Thursday during an outdoors event near Hill Air Force Base in Roy. 

Graphic showing the restrictions under the revised Utah COVID-19 Transmission Index as of April 1, 2021. | Background photo by Pixabay, graphic by Chris Reed, St. George News | Click to enlarge

Utah is an outlier in the nation, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nationwide new infections are rising again after they had been diving since January.

But the Utah Department of Health said Thursday that now 70% of Utahns 60 and over are fully vaccinated, and Southern Utah has the state’s highest population in that demographic.

Locally, Beaver County has gone from 15% of COVID-19 tests of residents coming back positive last week to 3.3%.

As for the rest of Southern Utah’s counties, Garfield County returned to the lowest index level for the first time since February. Garfield has been on a restrictions roller coaster, going from low to high and seeing its COVID-19 restrictions return before going back down last week. 

Washington and Iron county each saw little change week-to-week, but remained moderate. Kane County also remained in moderate but saw its test positivity nosedive from 9.52% to 4.72%, but its case rate per 100,000 people went up 52% (192.2 to 291.66).

Cox: Schools, state buildings will keep mandatory masks

With less than a week until a law passed by the state legislature means an end to the statewide mask mandate, Cox said he will not budge in regard to exemptions to the law that the mask mandate remain in K-12 schools.

Stock photo. | Photo by Drazen Zigic, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Cox said the mask mandate in schools was the reason why Utah was one of the few states that was able to resume in-person schooling for the entire school year, which, he said, has been a model for much of the rest of the nation where many are just now beginning to return to in-person instruction. 

Cox said he is not ready to risk that status, as the CDC’s recommendations for having in-person school include mandatory masking. 

“We hear from parents anxious for their kids not to wear masks in schools. But our focus was getting kids back in school for in-person learning,” Cox said, noting that at this point, the vaccine is not available for children under 16 who may not be getting as sick from the virus but are one of the prime transmitters of the virus. “If we were to stop masks (in schools), there are so many vulnerable kids and parents who would have to take them out of school. I don’t want that to happen. 

“We don’t want to have mandates one day longer than is necessary,” Cox added. “But it is necessary right now.”

In addition, Cox also reaffirmed that private businesses, including retail stores and grocery stores, will be able to continue mandatory masks in their businesses. And Cox said those businesses will include state buildings including the Department of Motor Vehicles as well as state government buildings. 

Gov. Spencer Cox receives his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. March 25, 2021, in Spanish Fork, Utah | | Photo by Rick Bowmer/Associated Press, St. George News

“Employers still have an obligation to keep employees safe,” Cox said. “Until they have all had an opportunity to be vaccinated, which should be by late May, masks will continue in state buildings.”

During a Washington County Women’s Republicans luncheon Thursday, the author of the bill that reduced the governor’s emergency powers, Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, said he was surprised by the announcement from Cox about state buildings; however, he said based on what he saw, what Cox was doing was basically in alignment with the Emergency Response Amendments.

He further mentioned that the bill ending the mask mandate still calls for masks to be worn in gatherings of 50 or more if people can’t be physically distant, as well as private businesses being able to keep their own mask policies intact.

Vaccine expansion continues

This week, President Joe Biden announced that the federal government is doubling the number of pharmacies nationwide getting the vaccines. Locally, some family-run pharmacies are now starting to offer vaccine doses and growing each day. 

Screenshot of Hurricane Family Pharmacy. Undated | St. George News

Among them are Hurricane Family Pharmacy, Stucki Family Pharmacy in Washington City,  Township Pharmacy in Cedar City, Zion Pharmacy in Kanab, Beaver Drug and Gift, and Davis Food and Drug locations.

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department is still seeing spots open for first doses of the Moderna and single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines. However, it is seeing the second dose clinics go full as the large number of people who got their first Moderna dose at the start of March are seeking to finish off their immunity. 

The CDC says there is no time limit as far as when a person gets their second dose.

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said with much of the high-risk and older population in the state having had at least one vaccine dose, those getting their first dose are now more likely to be among groups hesitant to get the vaccine in the first place. Dunn said the state is planning to address that by starting distribution to primary doctors sometime after May to let those hesitant to hear the pros and cons from their own doctor. 

Cox said: “If you’re hesitant about the vaccine, ask someone who has had theirs.” 

Dunn said 521,689 Utahns are now fully vaccinated against the virus. “It’s only three-and-a-half months since we started the vaccines and we’ve already vaccinated half-a-million,” Dunn said. “That is amazing.”

A resident receives the COVID-19 vaccine inside the St. George Active Life Center for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Feb. 11, 2021. St. George, Utah | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

At the same time, Dunn cautioned that even as the CDC said in a study this week that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been 90% effective in real-world conditions, no vaccine is 100% effective.

To that end, Dunn talked about what she called “breakthrough” cases, where people still got infected in Utah with the virus more than two weeks after getting fully vaccinated. 

But even then, that was 96 out of the 521,686 Utahns fully vaccinated, meaning in Utah the vaccines have been 99.98% effective. 

Of those 96, five had to be hospitalized – all of whom had underlying conditions and the health department said they couldn’t confirm whether it was COVID-19 that put them in the hospital. 

“We had 15 breakthrough cases in one long-term care facility and none of them had symptoms,” Dunn said, noting that no one who has been fully vaccinated in Utah has died of COVID-19.

The variants of the virus have not yet been an issue in Utah, as the vaccines appear to be effective against them. Of the breakthrough cases, only two were from a variant. And according to the Utah Department of Health, of the 27,897 infections in Southern Utah, nine have been found to have come from a variant virus.

St. George News staff writer Mori Kessler contributed to this report.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

  • Those who can currently get first dose of the vaccine: Everyone ages 16 and over. Those 16-18 can only receive the Pfizer vaccine. Use to find clinics that have the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Those who can receive the second dose: Those who received their first injection 28 days or more before the appointment time.
  • Must register in advance online for an appointment time.
  • Must have a personal ID and wear a short-sleeve shirt at appointment.
  • Proof of residency may be required, though a person does not have to reside in the county they are receiving the vaccine. Part-time residents can get vaccinated with proof of residency.
  • Vaccines are free of charge.
  • Those without email addresses or unable to make reservations online can get help at a specialized hotline at 435-986-2549.
  • To get alerts for when new vaccine appointments are added with the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, text SWUHEALTH to 888777.

Washington County:

Where: St. George Active Life Center, 245 N. 200 West, St George

Reservations: Click to register 

Iron County:

Where: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Wedgewood Lane, 2015 N Wedgewood Lane, Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register 

Kane County:

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

Reservations: Click to register 

Garfield County:

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

Reservations: Click to register

Beaver County:

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

Reservations: Click to register

St. George Regional Hospital/Intermountain Healthcare:

Where: 400 East Campus St. George Regional Hospital,  544 S. 400 East, St. George.

Reservations: Click to register

FourPoints Health:

Where: Various locations.

Reservations: Click to register

Revere Health:

Where: Revere Health Campus,  2825 E. Mall Drive, St. George.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 745 N Dixie Dr in St. George and 915 Red Cliffs Dr. in Washington City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 1189 E. 700 South in St. George and 3520 Pioneer Parkway in Santa Clara.

Reservations: Click to register

Lin’s Marketpace:

Where: 1930 W. Sunset Blvd.  and 2928 E. Mall Drive in St. George, 1120 State St. in Hurricane and 150 N Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register

Smith’s Food and Drug:

Where: 20 N. Bluff St. and 565 S. Mall Drive in St. George and 633 S. Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 625 W. Telegraph St. in Washington City, 180 N. 3400 West in Hurricane and 1330 S. Providence Center Dr. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register

Family pharmacies:

Where: Several locations

Reservations: Use to find a location near you

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.


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

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