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Outgoing State Epidemiologist Says Vaccinating Young Utahns Is The Most Important Next Step Against COVID-19

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Leah Hogsten/AP
The Salt Lake Tribune
(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn provides updates on the ongoing pandemic during the weekly briefing on COVID-19 at the Capitol. Dunn held her last press conference as the state’s epidemiologist Thursday where she thanked Utahns for their support during the pandemic and expressed optimism about the coming months.

Angela Dunn said she had good news to share Thursday during her last press conference as Utah’s epidemiologist.

The state’s weekly average for COVID-19 cases was down to 343 from 380 a week ago.

“Our cases are decreasing in Utah, but also nationally, which is a great sign,” Dunn said. “The more we continue to vaccinate individuals, the faster this drop will happen.”

State officials expect more than one million Utahns will be fully vaccinated by Friday.

Dunn said the most important next step is vaccinating people ages 12 to 15 once the Pfizer shot is approved for them. She said that could happen as early as next week.

“This is fantastic for Utah,” she said. “We have about 215,000 Utahns that are aged 12 to 15 years old. This age group, in part, is contributing to the COVID spread right now. So having 12 to 15-year-olds get vaccinated will really cause our cases to plummet.”

On Tuesday, Utah met the criteria outlined in the so-called “pandemic endgame” law, which resulted in the end of the state’s public health orders. All that’s left is a mask requirement for public schools until June 15.

Some parents protested the continued mask mandate for students earlier in the week. At the Granite School District meeting Tuesday, officials called the police to deal with an unruly group of parents.

Cox Covid 286.jpg
Leah Hogsten/AP
The Salt Lake Tribune
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox thanked outgoing state epidemiologist Angela Dunn for her service and said she was “representative of all of the incredible public health workers … who have worked tirelessly” during the pandemic.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox asked Utahns to be respectful of others. He also said he preferred to direct his attention elsewhere.

“People can embarrass themselves, but by and large Utahns have been really, really good through this pandemic,” Cox said. “And I want to focus on all the good that has been done over the past year.”

In that same spirit — and wearing a shirt that read “I heart Dr. Dunn” — the governor had some parting words for her, saying the criticism she received over the past year was undeserved.

“Seeing the way that she handled the burden of this crisis … she's simply here to help us keep the public safe,” Cox said. “She's done that at every turn, at much sacrifice to her and to her family. I just want her to know how grateful we are for everything that she has done.”

Dunn is leaving the state health department to head up Salt Lake County’s. Her first day at her new post is June 1. The state has yet to announce who will replace her.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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