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New coronavirus booster shots designed to target the highly contagious omicron variant could be available to Utahns as early as Friday, after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee endorsed the modified boosters Thursday afternoon.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky later endorsed the advisory committee’s recommendation Thursday evening, marking final approval. The Food and Drug Administration first authorized the updated booster shots on Wednesday.
The adjusted shots are produced by Pfizer and Moderna; Pfizer’s is available to anyone 12 or older, while Moderna’s is only available to adults. Salt Lake County Health Department spokesperson Gabriel Moreno said doses could arrive in Utah as early as Friday, or on Tuesday, following Labor Day.
Rich Lakin, with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services’ immunization program, said late Thursday that 100,000 doses will arrive in Utah within the next week and that people could get the shots within the “next several days or weeks.”
Lakin asked Utahns to be patient as health departments, pharmacies and doctor’s offices receive the new vaccines and update their systems to reflect the new inventory.
The CDC committee’s decision came as Utah on Thursday reported an additional 2,947 new coronavirus cases in the past week, for an average of 423 cases per day. The state also reported 13 new deaths, including a Utah county girl between 1 and 14 years old.
The child died in June but her death was reported Thursday, marking the sixth documented death of child from COVID-19 in Utah since the pandemic began.
Original coronavirus vaccines still strongly protect against severe illness and death, especially for people who have received a booster dose, health officials advise. But the new updated boosters are meant to better target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the omicron strain, which currently account for most COVID-19 infections nationwide.
“We encourage all Utahns to stay up-to-date on their immunizations,” state epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen said in a statement late Thursday. “As fall approaches, it’s important that you have as much protection from vaccine-preventable illnesses like flu and COVID-19 as possible.”
Nolen said data from the southern hemisphere suggests that flu season “may hit us hard this winter at the same time we expect transmission of COVID-19 to increase.”
“The updated COVID-19 vaccine can help protect us all,” Nolen said. A list of vaccine providers is available at the state’s coronavirus website or vaccines.gov.
State health data released Thursday showed declines or stabilizations in most Utah COVID-19 metrics, including the seven-day average case counts, new hospital admissions and emergency room visits.
The seven-day average for COVID-19 patients in the ICU, however, increased by more than 50% from 17 to 26.
Coronavirus wastewater levels
State health officials have said that case counts are an unreliable metric to track spread, since they don’t account for at-home tests. The levels of coronavirus found in Utah sewers can give a better indication.
This week, more wastewater sites — 44.1% — reported elevated or increasing amounts of the virus, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. Last week, the state reported just 23.5% sites with elevated or increasing virus levels.
Sites in Logan, North Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, Roosevelt, Cedar City and St. George all saw increasing amount of COVID-19. Twenty sites did not see a change compared to last week, and seven recorded decreases. One site did not report sufficient data.
Testing found elevated amounts of COVID-19 at ten wastewater sites and 20 others were on “watch” status, meaning there is concern that levels could become elevated.
No counties in Utah met the CDC’s high community COVID-19 level threshold this week. Last week, both San Juan and Uintah counties did. The CDC has said that people in high community COVID-19 level areas should wear a mask in public indoor spaces. No counties in Utah require masking.
Breakdown of updated figures:
Vaccine doses administered in the past week/total doses administered • 7,743 / 5,371,074.
Number of Utahns fully vaccinated • 2,049,988 — 63.1% of Utah’s total population. Another 984,840 Utahns have received at least one booster shot — 30.3% of the population.
Cases reported in the past week • 2,947.
Average cases per day reported in the past week • 423.
Deaths reported in the past week • 13.
Salt Lake County reported the deaths of a woman age 25-44, two men ages 45-64 and two men and a woman ages 65-84.
In Utah County, health officials reported the death of a girl between 1 and 14 years old and a woman age 65-84.
Carbon County reported the deaths of two women, one age 65-84 and the other 85 or older.
Cache, Davis and Washington counties each reported a single death, including a man age 65-85 and a man and woman age 85 or older.
Hospitalizations reported this week • As of Thursday, 159 Utahns were hospitalized with COVID-19, two more than the previous week. There were 21 in intensive care Thursday, the same number as last Thursday.
Percentage of positive tests • Counting all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual, 15.63% of the tests conducted came back positive, compared with 17.34% at this point last week.
When repeated tests on the same individual are not counted, 19.95% of the tests administered yielded positive results, down from 22.46% the previous week.
Totals to date • 1,029,759 cases; 4,981 deaths; 38,024 hospitalizations.