Immunizations are up in Utah, but so are the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths

More than 200,000 vaccines have been administered; another 24 Utahns die

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Capitol remains closed to the public as members of the House and Senate gather as the Utah State Legislature opens the 2021 legislative session at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 — with reminders to wear face masks placed prominently.

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Utah passed the 200,000 coronavirus immunizations mark on Friday, and the number of residents hospitalized for COVID-19 fell.

But the Utah Department of Health reported another 24 deaths, bringing the seven-day total to 99. And the total number of cases in the state is now almost a third of a million, so just over 10% of Utahns have contracted COVID-19.

Vaccinations reported in past day/total vaccinations • 13,350 / 207,127.

Cases reported in past day • 2,649.

Deaths reported in past day • 24.

Five of the deaths reported on Friday occurred before Dec. 31 and were recently confirmed to be caused by COVID-19 after analysis from the Office of the Medical Examiner.

There were 11 deaths in Salt Lake County: A man and three women ages 45-64; three men and a woman 65-84; and three women 85-plus.

Utah County reported four deaths: Two men and a woman 65-84; and one man 85-plus.

Box Elder County suffered three deaths: a man and a woman 65-84; and a man 85-plus.

Cache County and Iron County each reported two deaths: Two men 85-plus in Cache County; a man and a woman 65-84 in Iron County.

There was one death each in Sanpete County (a man 65-84) and Weber County (a man 65-84).

Hospitalizations reported in past day • 488. That’s down 41 from Thursday. Of those currently hospitalized, 192 are in intensive care units — 17 fewer than on Thursday.

Tests reported in past day • 12,574.

Percentage of positive tests • 21%. This is higher than the seven-day average of 19%.

Totals to date • 333,118 cases; 1,571 deaths; 12,884 hospitalizations; 1,948,153 tests.

One Utah doctor is urging people who got the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine not to delay getting the second dose.

“What we do not want to experience is a lot of people who are partially immune or somewhat immune to this virus,” said Dr. Mark Briesacher, chief physician executive for Intermountain Healthcare.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna versions of the vaccine provide some 95% effectiveness against getting sick from the coronavirus — but only if the patient gets both doses, Briesacher said. If a person only gets one dose, the level of effectiveness drops to about 50%.

“Say we give [only] one dose to 50% or 60% of the state,” Briesacher said. “If only half of them are protected, then there’s really only 25% or 30% immunity in the community at that point. That is not enough to change the course of this illness.”

The United Kingdom, Briesacher said, made the decision to get the first dose out to as many people as possible, with plans to get the second dose out later. “They are still experiencing extraordinarily high levels of hospitalizations and have a lot of pressure on their ICUs,” he said.

Doctors also worry that delaying the time between doses could give the virus more time to develop more dangerous mutations, Briesacher said.

As more people get vaccinated, Briesacher said it’s also important to remember that COVID-19 is still lethal.

When Thursday’s report was announced — showing 30 more Utahns had died from the virus, tying the state’s single-day record — Breisacher said, “My heart just sank, because I thought we would never see that number again. … It’s just a reminder of how dangerous this is.”

Briesacher said friends called his family this week with the news that their sister died. “It’s tough to hear that, and to hear how sad they are,” he said, noting that for each person who dies from COVID-19, he said, “they had five or six family members, scores of friends. … That’s the number of people who were affected in a really sad way.”