Driven by delta variant, COVID-19 surges again in Utah

Stock image by Fernando Zhiminaicela courtesy of Pixabay | Photo licensed under CC0, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Hospital leaders in Utah renewed their pleas for people to get vaccinated Wednesday as the state experiences another surge in new COVID-19 cases from the faster-spreading delta variant.

A person receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in March 2021 at a drive-thru clinic at Intermountain Orthopedic Specialty Hospital. Murray, Utah | File Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

The delta variant has begun to surge in Utah over the past month and now represents about 80% of cases in the state, said Dr. Michelle Hofmann, deputy director of the state health department. Utah has averaged about 386 confirmed cases per day over the last week, nearly double the case rate the state was experiencing at its lowest point in early June.

The surge is largely occurring in unvaccinated people who are being infected and hospitalized at six times the rate of vaccinated people, Hoffman said.

“The frustrating part about all of this is that, unlike last year, we have all the tools to stop this pandemic in its tracks,” Hoffman told reporters during a virtual briefing. “The COVID-19 vaccines work.”

The data overwhelming supports this, as new analysis by the Associated Press based on CDC data found nationally more than 99% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. are unvaccinated.

Dr. David Blodgett, health officer for Southwest Utah Public Health Department, stresses the importance of getting the COVID vaccine.

“The single best way to stay out of the hospital and avoid the effects of this disease is to get vaccinated,” Blodgett said. “This vaccine is almost perfect at keeping people out of the hospital and keeping them from dying.”

Utah now ranks fourth in the nation for new cases per capita, and the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 31% over the past two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Hospital leaders say more people need to be vaccinated to avoid hospitals from being overrun again.

Cars lined up with people arriving for their appointment times to take a COVID-19 test at the TestUtah site at Dixie Tech in St. George, Utah, on Dec. 4, 2020. | File Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The state health department reported Tuesday that 44.2% of Utah’s 3.2 million residents were fully vaccinated and 49.6% had received at least one of two required shots.

“We can stop this surge before it gets worse,” Hoffman said. “We can help keep our health care systems functioning efficiently. But it’s going to require people who have not been vaccinated yet to do so now.”

The challenge now, Blodgett said, is to wade through some of the contradictory and often inaccurate messaging around COVID-19.

“We’re happy to talk to people about their concerns and we have answers to vaccine related questions on our website,” Blodgett said. “All we can do is continue to be consistent and provide correct information for people. We want to be a trustworthy source for information on this situation.”

Blodgett said it is extremely unfortunate that so much of the information available nationally has a political tie-in.

“Our messaging is always about how to take control of your health and your life,” Blodgett said. “Vaccines are about protecting yourself and protecting others… In the realm of things that have been most effective and helpful in human history, vaccines rank up there as among the most effective things that can be done to improve quality and quantity of life.”

“This is one of those few community activities that we can do that benefits everyone,” he said.

Resources

HOW TO GET YOUR VACCINE: At the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, there are plenty of vaccines available and no need to make an appointment, you can just walk in to most places. Find out more at https://swuhealth.org/covid-vaccine

GET THE LATEST DATA ON COVID HERE: 

https://coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts/

https://swuhealth.org/covid/

Written by: SOPHIA EPPOLITO, Associated Press. Cedar City Hospital spokesperson BECKI BRONSON contributed to this story.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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