Southern Utah sees 400th COVID-19-related death; CDC says trick-or-treating poses low risk if outside

Stock photo.| Photo by jarun011/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Southern Utah marked its 400th COVID-19-related death on Thursday almost 19 months to the day of the first reported local death.

Nurse works with a COVID-19 patient at Intermountain Hospital, Murray, Utah, October 2021 | Photo courtesy Intermountain Healthcare

Among the three deaths announced by the Utah Department of Health on Thursday was a 15- to 24-year-old man from Iron County who was not hospitalized. 

There have now been 401 people in the five counties of Southern Utah that have lost their lives since the first Southern Utah death was announced March 27, 2020, including 13 in the last week. 

Of those 401 deaths, 131 (32.7%), have been in the last five months. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, COVID-19 is the second-leading cause of death in Utah in the last year, just behind heart disease and ahead of cancer. 

While local hospitalizations stayed at a steady high – with 53 residents hospitalized with COVID-19 – infections as a whole inched up 11% this week. Beaver County is seeing the highest infection rates, while on Thursday,  St. George led all cities in the state with less than 100,000 people for number of new infections.  

The latest figures come as online slots for COVID-19 booster shots and other vaccine shots at the Southwest Utah Public Health Department have completely filled in both St. George and Cedar City this week.

Those who work at Intermountain Healthcare’s three local hospitals that haven’t received the COVID-19 vaccine may need to do so by Jan. 5. The parent of St. George Regional Hospital, Cedar City Hospital and Garfield Memorial Hospital announced Wednesday that as of that that date, all employees will have to at least be in the process of receiving the vaccine or have a sincere religious or disability exemption or face termination. 

Sign outside Garfield Memorial Hospital in Panguitch, Utah. Aug. 11, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Dr. Mark Briesacher, the chief physician executive for the entire Intermountain system, said the move is mainly to comply with the requirement President Biden announced in September, but not yet implemented. The Labor Department rules mandate that all health care workers, federal workers and workers at companies with more than 100 employees have all of their employees inoculated against COVID-19 or tested weekly or face federal fines.

Briesacher, in a Zoom conference with reporters Wednesday, said 80% of Intermountain employees are already fully vaccinated, and the two month implementation period allows those who have not to ease into it.

“It’s our team’s hope that everyone finds a place to comply or go through the religious exemption process,” Briesacher said. “What we know today is we’re going to really lean in and help them in the process.”

CDC says trick or treat away

A year ago at this time, the CDC expressed trepidation about kids and the kids-at-heart partaking in the Halloween trick-or-treat traditions.

Halloween in Southern Utah, October 2020 | Photo courtesy of Brent Rowe, St. George News

That is not the case this year. 

In new holiday guidelines sent out earlier in the month, the CDC said there is little risk to people trick-or-treating this year as long as they keep it outdoors.

The guidelines do caution to avoid crowded, poorly-ventilated indoor spaces. They also recommend that unvaccinated people wear masks over their nose and mouth in public indoor settings and for vaccinated people to wear masks in the same scenario in communities with a high-transmission rate.

As of Thursday, every Southern Utah county is in a high transmission rate. 

But overall, the head of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during an appearance on Fox News on Sunday there’s less of a trick this year. 

“I would say put on those costumes, stay outside, and enjoy your trick-or-treating,” she said.

The mental cost of COVID-19

New studies from both the Utah Department of Health and the CDC indicate that despite what has seemed like a mental struggle for many, there has only been a small increase of people using mental health services since the start of the pandemic. And in Utah, suicide and accidental drug overdoses have not increased since the start of the pandemic. 

Stock image | Photo by Marcos Calvo/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Michael Staley, the suicide prevention research coordinator with the Utah Department of Health, said the main reason there has not been a substantial increase, at least as far as suicides, is after being among the state with the highest suicide rates in the last decade, there has been a great deal of investment by the state Legislature into suicide prevention and mental health programs in the state. 

“We can’t pinpoint one reason but we would like to attribute this to the priority taken to reduce suicides and overdoses in the last few years,” Said Staley, who added a decision was made early on in the pandemic on the state level to set up a mental health plan to deal with the pandemic alongside the work on the epidemiologists side. “We began meeting early with our health care partners and looked at how can we respond. But the pandemic isn’t over and the story is still being told. It’s not time to back away but double down on resources.”

In another report released earlier in the month, the suicide rate among youth also hasn’t seen an increase during the pandemic, though anxiety and depression are on the rise. Staley said it is a misnomer that suicide is mainly a problem for teens. It is something to watch for among friends and neighbors in the older population of Southern Utah.

“Those over 65 may be at a higher risk,” Staley said.

Messages of support adorn a “HOPE” banner during an “Out of the Darkness” community walk, date and location not specified. | Image courtesy of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, St. George News

That news on the mental health front may not bring comfort to many who have told St. George News that they have had difficulty getting time with a therapist or a mental health expert. A survey for this story of three therapists for this story found that all are booked solid. 

While the American Psycholoigial Association said stress as a whole nationwide hasn’t been hiked by the pandemic, a national survey of psychologists found there has a substantial rise nationwide in the last two months of people seeking treatment for anxiety and depression.  

Staley said he is “heartened to say” the number of Utahns seeking help has increased, but he still said those increases are consistent with previous years “so not solely pandemic-related.”

He and the Utah Department of Health recommend seeking out telehealth mental health services, which are still readily available. 

The health department also operates a help line, known as the Utah Strong Recovery Project, where from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, people can call in to counselors free of charge at  385-386-2289 for support through anxiety, loneliness or worry. 

Ed note: The percentage of those who have died since June has been corrected.

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

Positive COVID-19 tests: 40,858 (7-day average of 98.14 per day, up 11% in last week)

Active cases: 1,790 (falling)

  • Washington County (High in Transmission Index): 422.40 per 100K rate in 14 days, rising since Oct. 21
  • Iron County (High): 727.58, steady
  • Kane County (High): 291.66, rising
  • Garfield County (High): 613.74, steady
  • Beaver County (High): 938.90 rising

Hospitalized: 53 (steady)

Deaths: 401 (13 since Oct. 21)

New infections per day in Southern Utah:

  • Friday (Oct. 22): 112
  • Saturday (Oct. 23): 108
  • Sunday (Oct. 24): 74
  • Monday (Oct. 25): 50
  • Tuesday (Oct. 26): 111
  • Wednesday (Oct. 27): 104
  • Thursday (Oct. 28): 129

Current Utah seven-day average: 1,547 (rising)

Fully vaccinated in  Southern Utah: 111,131 (44.1% fully vaccinated, +0.3% since Oct. 22)

  • St. George: 48.03% fully vaccinated (+0.37%) 
  • Cedar City: 39.31% (+0.37%)
  • Washington City: 44.03% (+0.29%)
  • Ivins/Santa Clara: 50.39% (+0.33%)
  • Hurricane/LaVerkin: 37.23% (+0.22%)
  • Enterprise/Veyo/Springdale/Hildale: 42.75% (+0.29%)
  • Beaver/Garfield/Kane counties: 42.18% (+0.25%)

Southern Utah schools active COVID-19 infections (as of Thursday, 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: 27 to 78 (falling since Oct. 22)
    • Iron County School District: 23 to 53 (steady)
    • Kane County School District: 1-4 (steady)
    • Garfield County School District: 2-8 (rising)
    • Beaver County School District: 3-12 (rising)
    • Southwest Utah Charter Schools: 7-12 (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: Canyon View Middle (Iron) 7 active infections, Three Peaks School (Iron) 6, Snow Canyon High (Washington) 5, Pine View High (Washington) 5, St. George Academy (Southwest Utah Charter) 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 at least six months ago and are 65 or older or 18+ with underlying health conditions or high-risk occupations. Those who received Johnson & Johnson at least two months ago and are 18 or older. Booster shot can be of any form of COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The Southwest Utah Public Health Department is currently online appointment only. Some pharmacies and stores are offering walk-up appointments. Check the links below before going.
  • 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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