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Governor Says Unvaccinated Utahns Should Be ‘Very Worried’ As COVID-19 Cases Climb

A photo of Gov. Spencer Cox at a press conference.
Rick Egan
The Salt Lake Tribune
With COVID-19 cases on the rise, Gov. Spencer Cox joined health officials Thursday in asking Utahns to do the one thing that can stop the increase — get vaccinated.

Gov. Spencer Cox gave a dire warning to Utahns ahead of this holiday weekend.

“If you're unvaccinated, you should be very worried this Fourth of July.” he said Thursday during the state’s COVID-19 briefing.

Case numbers and hospitalizations are once again on the rise in Utah. The state’s Department of Health reported 574 new cases on Wednesday, which is the highest total since April 21. Another 540 cases were reported Thursday.

The seven-day rolling average is now 384 cases, which is up from a month ago when the state was averaging 213 cases a day.

Michelle Hofmann, a deputy director with UDOH, said models predict case numbers will be more than 1,000 by the end of August.

“We're clearly in the middle of a spike in cases, and it's really sad to see and entirely avoidable,” she said. “It's no secret who's driving the surge in cases and hospitalizations. It's unvaccinated people.”

There are now more than 250 people in Utah’s hospitals because of COVID. The last time the state saw this many hospitalizations was mid-February.

Kencee Graves, chief medical officer for in-patient services with University of Utah Health, said a surge is more difficult to combat this time around. She said there are unfilled positions at hospitals and there’s demand for treatments that were delayed because of the pandemic, like elective surgeries. Graves said they are also dealing with the usual injuries that are seen in the summer months, like ATV accidents.

“It's been really hard for our healthcare workers and they're tired,” Graves said. “We cannot respond like we did for all 2020. So what we need is your help keeping us all safe.”

She pointed out that the Delta variant is driving the spike, which is more transmissible than other variants of the virus.

Ninety-five percent of the people who have died from the coronavirus since May 1 were unvaccinated, according to Cox. It’s similar for those who have tested positive and been hospitalized — 93% of them had not been vaccinated, Cox said.

President Joe Biden set a goal of having 70% of adults get at least one dose by the Fourth of July, and Cox echoed that mission. Data from UDOH says 61% of Utahns 12 years of age and older have gotten one dose.

Though, Cox said there may be discrepancies in the number of people vaccinated because the state doesn’t include vaccines administered by federal agencies. Including those estimates, he projected around 69% of adults have received at least one dose.

When it comes to further restrictions or mandates, Cox said he isn’t considering any since there’s a way to prevent the spread — vaccines. He also said incentive programs are still on the table and being discussed with the state Legislature.

“People shouldn't need an incentive,” Cox said. “I've said this many times, like, I don't know, not dying is a great incentive.”

Cox pleaded for people to get vaccinated. He said they’re available minutes away from most Utahns, at almost any time of the day. Despite the concern he has about the state’s current situation, Cox said he’s optimistic things will work out.

“Every time we've had cases come up, cases have gone down as people respond to those threats,” Cox said. “This is the first time that we have had cases climbing when there is something that can stop them completely from climbing.”

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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