COVID-19 death, infection rates continue to drop in Southern Utah; new info revealed on vaccines

Stock photo.| Photo by Kateryna Onyshchuk /iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE —  The rate of COVID-19 deaths and infections have gone down in Southern Utah in the last week, and while hospitals are continuing to see crowded conditions, there may be signs of relief on the way for them as well.

Staff member services a person being tested for COVID-19 at the TestUtah testing site at Tech Ridge, St. George, Utah, Sept. 2, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

While eight people were announced by the Utah Department of Health as dying from COVID-19 in the last week, it was still the first week in more than a month that deaths locally weren’t in the double-digits.

As far as the number of infections, the new case rate in Southern Utah had an 18.3% reduction in the last seven days. That was on top of a 15.8% reduction last week.

Cedar City, which as an area had the third-highest infection rate in the state two weeks ago, according to the Utah Department of Health, is now 20th, and no other city in Southern Utah is higher. Beaver County is the only county in Southern Utah currently seeing a rise in infections, while Garfield County has the highest rate among counties. 

However, the reduction still hasn’t been enough to change the status of COVID-19 transmission in Southern Utah being high, as all five counties remain in the highest level of transmission in the Utah COVID-19 Transmission Index compiled by the Utah Department of Health.

Local schools have also been seeing a steady drop in infections, according to Utah Department of Health data, with the exception of the Iron County School District, which this week approached the same number of infected students as the much larger Washington County School District.

Equipment hooked up to a COVID-19 patient at Intermountain Hospital, Murray, Utah, October 2021 | Photo courtesy Intermountain Healthcare

The Utah Department of Health also estimates that 51% of current infections among school-age children have not been reported to schools, partially accounting for what some officials have said is an undercount among the school-age population.

The one area of the pandemic not seeing as much relief thus far in October is the local hospitals, though there are fewer locals being hospitalized for COVID-19.

As of Tuesday, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, all five of Southern Utah’s hospitals are at 60% capacity or above. That said, there are still 14 fewer Southern Utahns hospitalized for COVID-19 now than at this time last week, according to the Utah Department of Health.  

St. George Regional Hospital was at 88% capacity. Its intensive care unit was once again at or above capacity for most of the week with 92% of the ICU patients infected with COVID-19.

Cedar City Hospital, the only other local facility with COVID-19 patients, is also seeing its ICU in the red zone of capacity at 86%, though none of the Cedar City ICU patients are infected with COVID-19. The hospital is at 61% overall, with 15% of patients having COVID-19.

Intermountain Healthcare officials have previously said the sheer number of COVID-19 patients at St. George Regional Hospital is having a ripple effect at other hospitals in the area, as the other facilities take on patients St. George does not have room for. 

Among other area hospitals, Garfield Memorial is at 79% capacity, while the hospitals in Kanab and Beaver are at 60-62%.

New CDC reports shed light on vaccines

In the last week, the Centers for Disease Control has released new studies on if vaccines are still keeping people from being hospitalized for COVID-19, while the Federal Drug Administration has given tentative approval for those over 65 and high-risk individuals with the Moderna vaccine to get a booster shot. 

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

In a study released last weekend by the CDC, an analysis of 3,689 adults hospitalized for COVID-19 from March to August showed that those with Moderna have seen the effectiveness of keeping them out of the hospital go from 95% to 93%.

In contrast, the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine has gone from 91% to 85% and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has gone from 81% to 56%. The data suggests breakthrough hospitalizations of those fully vaccinated have been more likely to be those with Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, rather than Moderna. 

On Friday for the first time, the CDC also released specific data on which vaccines had the most breakthrough cases and deaths. The data shows breakthrough cases vaccinated with Pfiizer were twice as likely to die of COVID-19 and Johnson & Johnson three times more likely than Moderna. Overall, the CDC said a person not vaccinated at all is 11.3 times as likely to die if they get COVID-19 than if they had any of the vaccines. In Utah, according to the Utah Department of Health, that number is 12.6 times greater chance of dying if unvaccinated.

Chart shows the COVID-19 death rate nationally between April and Oct. 15, 2021 divided between those who are in accounted and those who have had one of three different COVID-19 vaccines | Chart courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control, St. George News | Click to enlarge

The data also shows that the adult age group that is least vaccinated — those 18- to 29-years-old —  is 47 times more likely to die if they are unvaccinated and get COVID-19 than those 18-29 who are vaccinated – at a rate of 0.47 for unvaccinated versus 0.01 for vaccinated.

Locally, an uptick in vaccinations seen in the past few weeks has subsided. And officials with both the Utah Department of Health and the Southwest Utah Public Health Department each say that uptick was mainly those already vaccinated getting booster shots, rather than unvaccinated people getting inoculated against COVID-19.

The FDA has already fully approved booster shots for those who received Pfizer six months or more ago and are elderly or have high-risk conditions. Those high-risk conditions are not only those who have high-risk physical conditions like lung disease, immunocompromised or obesity, but also those who work in environments that are considered high-risk. According to the CDC, that includes teachers, first responders and retail workers.

On Thursday, an FDA panel voted to approve Moderna booster shots for the same demographic groups, though that decision still awaits full FDA approval. 

There are also reports from several media sources that the FDA is considering authorizing those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to receive either Moderna or Pfizer as a booster with their higher effectiveness. St. George News has previously asked health experts if it is harmful for a person with one COVID-19 vaccine to receive a booster of a different vaccine, and the answer was no.

One thing holding Utahns back from getting the vaccine might be a fear of needles. At least, if a new study of the most Googled phobias is to be believed.

The report by using fear search terms through Google Trends, said that Utah is the only state in the nation where the fear of needles was the most searched fear. That compares with the fear of failure, blood and drowning in water leading most other states. 

Those who have received the vaccine shot have told St. George News previously that the actual shot is one of the easiest they have had and isn’t more painful than a pinch.

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Friday, according to Utah Department of Health)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 39,639 (7-day average of 86.14 per day, down 18.7% in last week)

Active cases: 2,089 (falling)

  • Washington County (High in Transmission Index): 522.09 per 100K rate in 14 days, falling since Oct. 8
  • Iron County (High): 753.11, falling
  • Kane County (High): 393.11, falling
  • Garfield County (High): 1,128.49, steady
  • Beaver County (High): 655.74 rising

Hospitalized: 53 (falling)

Deaths: 377 (8 since Oct. 8)

New infections per day in Southern Utah:

  • Saturday (Oct. 9): 102
  • Sunday (Oct. 10): 50
  • Monday (Oct. 11): 96
  • Tuesday (Oct. 12): 59
  • Wednesday (Oct. 13): 115
  • Thursday (Oct. 14): 93
  • Friday (Oct. 15): 88

Current Utah seven-day average: 1,288 (falling)

Fully vaccinated in  Southern Utah: 109,114 (43.3% fully vaccinated, +0.5% since Sept. 23)

  • St. George: 47.19% fully vaccinated (+0.54%) 
  • Cedar City: 38.31% (+0.47%)
  • Washington City: 43.35% (+0.54%)
  • Ivins/Santa Clara: 49.71% (+0.48%)
  • Hurricane/LaVerkin: 36.61% (+0.5%)
  • Enterprise/Veyo/Springdale/Hildale: 42.15% (+0.53%)
  • Beaver/Garfield/Kane counties: 41.43% (+0.39%)

Southern Utah schools active COVID-19 infections (as of Friday, according to Utah Department of Health)

NOTE: Utah Department of Health currently providing only ranges of the number of infections in each district, rather than exact figures. Figures may be an overall undercount as not all infections among students are reported to the state.

    • Washington County School District: 33 to 73 (falling since Oct. 8)
    • Iron County School District: 31 to 61 (rising)
    • Kane County School District: 2-8 (steady)
    • Garfield County School District: 2-8 (falling)
    • Beaver County School District: 1-4 (falling)
    • Southwest Utah Charter Schools: 6-24 (steady)
    • Southwest Utah Private Schools: 0 (steady)

Schools in yellow (In danger of moving to test-to-stay): None
Schools in red (Students/staff must test negative to attend): None
Top 5 schools: Dixie High (Washington) 7 active infections, Crimson Cliffs High (Washington) 6, Iron Springs School (Iron) 6, Canyon View High (Iron) 5, Canyon View Middle (Iron) 5, Cedar Middle (Iron) 5.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

  • Those who can currently get first dose of the vaccine: Everyone ages 12 and over. Those 12-18 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.
  • Those who can receive a booster dose: Those who received Pfizer or Moderna previously and are immunocompromised.
  • The Southwest Utah Public Health Department and most pharmacies and stores are offering walk-up appointments.
  • Must wear a short-sleeve shirt at appointment and should have a personal ID.
  • Vaccines are free of charge.

Washington County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department St. George office, 620 S. 400 East, St George

For hours and more information: Click here 

Iron County:

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

For hours and more information: Click here 

Kane County:

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

For hours and more information: Click here 

Garfield County:

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

For hours and more information: Click here 

Beaver County:

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

For hours and more information: Click here 

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.

For hours and more information:: Click here

Revere Health:

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

Reservations: Call (435) 673-6131 to determine if vaccine is available.


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: 275 S River Rd. in St. George.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 2610 Pioneer Rd. in St. George, 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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