Coronavirus cases are exploding in Utah County. As of Tuesday, the county was home to seven of the state’s 10 worst outbreaks, with the town of Salem reporting the highest two-week case rates of any Utah community after several cases there were traced back to a church camp.
But parts of the county also appear to be leading the state in new vaccinations. According to data from the Utah Department of Health, seven of the 10 communities that saw the biggest increases in vaccination rates in the past week also are in Utah County. In Eagle Mountain alone, hundreds of people received their first dose of the vaccine during the past seven days.
Vaccination rates are still quite low throughout the county; none of the communities there have even half of their populations fully vaccinated.
But it turns out a lot of residents aren’t stridently opposed. In fact, a little extra attention — especially in the more rural southern part of the county — has gone a long way, said Danielle Champman, spokeswoman for the county health department.
For instance, she said, the department has done several pop-up vaccine clinics at a grocery store parking lot in Santaquin and gotten several takers each time — even though the grocery store pharmacy itself offers vaccines for free every day.
“At this point the vaccine is available at a lot of different places, but we still see uptake when we do these outreach clinics,” Champman said.
That’s because the county goes out of its way to promote those clinics as a special opportunity to get vaccinated, advertising on social and traditional media and on billboards, Champman said.
“We try to make it kind of like a grand event when we come,” she said.
The county also has begun to offer vaccination slots twice a week at its Payson clinic; those slots often are completely or nearly full, and the clinic sees a number of walk-ins, too.
But a lot of those appointments don’t fill until a day or two beforehand, Champman said, which suggests scheduling flexibility is important to many of Utah’s recently vaccinated.
“We’re reaching that population who might not want to plan a week or more ahead,” she said.
Cases still are on the rise in much of the county. In the small town of Salem, nearly 1 in every 100 residents has tested positive in the past two weeks. That appears to be linked to a recent outbreak at a girls camp of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where seven participants contracted the virus and likely spread it to others when they left.
“Like all other contract tracing — it snowballs when they get back home,” Champman said.
Children under age 12 are not yet eligible for the shots, and vaccination rates among teens and young adults have lagged behind other age groups statewide.
Youth camps have been a major factor in Utah County’s outbreaks in recent months, Champman noted. “We’ve been chasing them all summer,” she said.