Utahns have received more than 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine

The state’s ‘plateau’ of new cases is because of virus variants, according to Intermountain Healthcare doctor.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dr. Diane Gilles takes a handful of syringes filled with the Moderna vaccine to be given to people on Thursday, March 18, 2021, as the Utah Film Studios loans its space to the Summit County Health Department as a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination station.

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More than 2 million COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered in Utah, the state health department reported. More than 1.24 million Utahns have received at least one dose, and almost 858,000 are fully vaccinated, with either both doses of the Modern or Pfizer vaccines or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Almost 30,000 vaccine doses were injected in the past day, which also saw 344 new cases of the coronavirus and one more death.

Vaccine doses administered in past day/total doses administered • 29,519 / 2,014,815.

Utahns fully vaccinated • 857,812.

Cases reported in past day • 344.

Deaths reported in past day • One, a Utah County man between the ages of 65-84.

Tests reported in past day • 4,580 people were tested for the first time. A total of 15,833 people were tested.

Hospitalizations reported in past day • 140. That’s up three from Thursday. Of those currently hospitalized, 61 are in intensive care units — 10 more than on Thursday.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 7.%. That’s higher than the seven-day average of 5.8%.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Friday’s rate was 2.2%, lower than the seven-day average of 2.9%.

[Read more: Utah is changing how it measures the rate of positive COVID-19 tests. Here’s what that means.]

Totals to date • 394,678 cases; 2,179 deaths; 16,033 hospitalizations; 2,520,126 people tested.

Also on Friday, a leading Utah doctor said the current “plateau” in the decline of new COVID-19 cases in Utah can be attributed largely to variants of the coronavirus spreading.

“If you look in Utah, it looks like about 50% of the cases are due to B.1.1.7,” or the so-called “U.K. variant,” Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, infectious diseases physician at Intermountain Healthcare, said Friday during Intermountain’s weekly COVID-19 community briefing.

“What we can say pretty confidently is that the variants that we’ve been tracking — the California and the U.K. — are the predominant viruses here in Utah, as is the case across the U.S,” he said.

The “California variants” are B.1.427 and B.1.429, which Stenehjem said are referred to among doctors as “The Beach Boys.” Those variants spread faster than the original virus that causes COVID-19, but not as fast as the U.K. variant.

“The good news is that [the California and U.K. variants] are covered by the vaccine,” Stenehjem said. “If you get vaccinated, you are protected against those variants.”

Stenehjem is concerned about other fast-spreading and potentially more dangerous variants from South Africa and Brazil.

“And, quite frankly, I worry about a variant coming out of India — India has incredible transmission right now, an incredibly population-dense area,” Stenehjem said. “I’m sure we’re going to see a variant coming out of India, due to the vast amount of transmission there.”

Time will tell, Stenehjem said, whether the current vaccines will knock out those variants, or if booster shots — which Pfizer and Moderna have said they are developing — will be needed.