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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Hard Hit Long-Term Care Facilities In Utah Are Seeing ‘Enormous Success’ With Vaccines

A photo of an elderly man wearing a face mask.
Yaraslau Saulevich
Over one-third of COVID-19 related deaths in Utah have come from long-term care facilities. The governor said Thursday over 90% of residents have been vaccinated.

Over 80% of long-term care facilities in Utah have had a COVID-19 outbreak. That equates to more than 5,000 residents contracting the virus and more than 650 of them have died because of it.

Now with vaccinations underway, the outlook for these places is starting to look up.

At the height of the pandemic, dozens of long-term care locations had more than 10 active cases. As a result, the state sent in “mobile strike teams” to help get outbreaks under control.

Just a few months after vaccines first arrived in Utah, Gov. Spencer Cox said the state has had “enormous success” with people in this group.

“Over 90% of residents in long-term care facilities have taken the vaccine,” Cox said Thursday. “Every long-term care facility in the state has had the option. There is just a small percentage that opted not to get the vaccine. But again, over 90%, which is really good news.”

Chad Szymanski owns assisted living centers in southwest Utah. He said there were a few outbreaks in his facilities and one older resident on hospice passed away. Szymanski said one of the hardest things to deal with over the past year was staff shortages because many were out sick.

He said they’re grateful to have vaccinated people in recent months. Second doses of vaccines have been available at his centers since February, and he said they’re close to returning to normal operations.

“Things are looking up and we're able to start loosening up on some of the restrictions as soon as the state will allow us to do some of that,” he said. “We're looking forward to opening the doors up and welcoming friends and family back into the homes.”

Long-term care residents still account for about one-third of the state’s deaths. However, as of Thursday only three locations had more than 10 active cases.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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