‘They’re dead now ... because they refused to get vaccinated’: Gov. Spencer Cox frustrated that Utahns are still dying of COVID-19

Since vaccines were made available to all Utahns 16 or older, 98.6% of COVID-19 cases were unvaccinated, according to the governor.

(Laura Seitz | Deseret News, pool) Governor Spencer Cox speaks during the PBS Utah GovernorÕs Monthly News Conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

Gov. Spencer Cox repeated his plea for Utahns to get vaccinated against COVID-19 — and showed frustration Thursday with those who have been diagnosed with the disease, and those who have been hospitalized or died from it, when they could have gotten the shot.

“It’s very sad,” Cox said during his monthly news conference on PBS Utah. In recent weeks, Cox said, he has spoken with families “whose loved ones have died or who are in the hospital, in dire circumstances right now, because they refused to get vaccinated. Completely preventable.”

Cox continued, his voice rising with anger, that “they didn’t have to die. They don’t have to be in the hospital. But they’re dead now, and they’re in the hospital now, because they refused to get vaccinated.”

Since March 23, when vaccines became available to all Utahns 16 or older, the state has seen 28,233 new cases of COVID-19, and 98.6% of them were unvaccinated, Cox said.

Similarly, Cox said, 95.2% of the 1,625 Utahns who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in that time frame were unvaccinated — and 98.2% of the 113 Utahns who died from COVID-19 since March 23 did not get vaccinated.

Cox reiterated the state’s goal — echoing the national goal set by the Biden administration — of having 70% of adults receive at least one shot by July 4. “It’s looking like we’re not going to get there, unless we have a big surge of vaccinations over the next couple weeks,” he said. “We’re hoping that will happen. We’re pulling out all the stops to make that happen.”

Cox said 64.3% of adults in Utah have received at least one dose of the vaccine. “So we’re close. We’re within shouting distance of 70%.”

The national average, Cox said, is 65%. “So the good news is we’re not doing [that much] worse than the nation,” Cox said. “The bad news is we’re not doing better than the national average.”

The state has sent letters to 10,000 Utah businesses, Cox said, urging them to make it easier for employees to opt for the vaccine — by playing host to mobile vaccine clinics, or giving employees paid time off to get their shot, or providing incentives to employees and customers.

It remains up in the air whether the state government will offer its own incentives. Cox said his office has been discussing possible incentives with legislative leaders. “There hasn’t been much interest in that” from the legislature, Cox said, though “we continue to have those discussions.”

Information about where to get vaccinated is available at coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine.