Utah has dispensed almost half a million COVID-19 vaccines

The state also reports 11 more coronavirus-related deaths.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kirsten Weber, gives a COVID-19 vaccination to a Utah County resident in a former Shopko store in Spanish Fork, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021.

Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune is providing free access to critical stories about the coronavirus. Sign up for our Top Stories newsletter, sent to your inbox every weekday morning. To support journalism like this, please donate or become a subscriber.

The state of Utah is approaching the half-million mark for COVID-19 vaccines, and more than 140,000 residents have received both doses. And the state recorded its highest one day mark for vaccines administered.

However, the Utah Department of Health also reported 11 more deaths Friday — six of those occurred before Jan. 15 and have only recently been confirmed.

Vaccinations reported in past day/total vaccinations • 26,996 / 489,716. The previous one day high for vaccinations given was 21,204 on Feb. 6.

Number of Utahns who have received two doses • 140,293.

Cases reported in past day • 1,060.

Deaths reported in past day • 11.

Cache County reported two deaths — a man and a woman ages 85 or older.

There were also two deaths in Tooele County — a man 65-84 and a woman 85-plus.

Seven other counties each reported one death:

• A man 25-44 in Box Elder County.

• A woman 65-84 in Davis County.

• A man 65-84 in Iron County.

• A man 45-64 in Salt Lake County.

• A man 65-84 in Utah County.

• A man 85-plus in Wasatch County.

• And a man 65-84 in Weber County.

Hospitalizations reported in past day • 312. That’s down 15 from Thursday. Of those currently hospitalized, 118 are in intensive care units — 10 fewer than Thursday.

Tests reported in past day • 7,143 people were tested for the first time. A total of 20,095 people were tested Thursday.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 14.8%. That’s about the same as the seven-day average of 14.7%.

Its new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. That rate is now at 5.3%, lower than the seven-day average of 6.6%.

Totals to date • 359,641 cases; 1,785 deaths; 14,103 hospitalizations; 2,110,759 people tested.

The state’s largest hospital system, Intermountain Healthcare, is throwing its support behind Gov. Spencer Cox’s drive to launch a network of mass vaccination centers in the spring.

Intermountain will create nine “high-throughput” vaccination sites — locations capable of giving out 1,000 jabs of the vaccine in a day — from Logan to St. George, said Mark Briesacher, senior vice president and chief physician executive at Intermountain, during the company’s weekly community COVID-19 briefing Friday on Facebook Live.

Intermountain also will add a handful of drive-thru vaccination sites in rural areas of Utah, Briesacher said. “We always have to keep in mind: How do we vaccinate everybody across the state,” he said, “not just in the major population centers?”

The exact locations for those sites are not yet finalized, an Intermountain spokesman said.

“The most exciting part is that we can actually do this,” Briesacher said. “The vaccine supply has increased. That allows us to join in now in the vaccination of people in the community.”

Meanwhile, the health department announced Friday that, starting next Thursday, it will use the new “test over test” calculation as part of its assessment of what counties are experiencing “high,” “moderate” or “low” levels of COVID-19 transmission.

Test positivity is one of three metrics the state uses to determine a county’s transmission level. The others are statewide capacity in intensive care units, and the number of cases per 100,000 people over the previous two weeks.

Rich Saunders, the health department executive director, said Friday that if the new method of calculating the test positivity rate were in place, none of the counties’ designations would have changed — in part because case counts and ICU capacity are still high.

The thresholds for each rating are changing under this method. Using the old stat, anything 13% or above was considered “high,” between 6% and 12.9% was “moderate” and anything below 6% was “low.” Under the new method, a rate of 10% or higher is “high,” between 5.1% and 9.9% is “moderate,” and anything 5% or lower is “low.”

The health department also is loosening public gathering requirements for counties in the “moderate” transmission level. Starting Thursday, such gatherings may offer side-by-side seating, if the event host follows guidelines, all patrons wear masks, stay in their assigned seats, and attest that they have not had COVID-19 symptoms or exposures over the previous 14 days.

Physical distancing of six feet between family groups is still recommended, but not required as before in the “moderate” category.

Also, at events in counties with a “moderate” transmission level, concession stands must be closed. That would be a change from the policy at events in “high” transmission areas, such as Utah Jazz home games.

“Where the risk is highest is when people remove the mask and eat food and talk and laugh and shout,” Saunders said. “If we can hold off on the concessions for now, we can have increased seating, [people] masked, with assigned seating for our contact tracing purposes.”

As of Friday, most of Utah, including all of its highly populated areas, was at the “high” transmission level. Two counties, Morgan and San Juan, were in the “moderate” range. Four of Utah’s least populated counties — Daggett, Garfield, Piute and Rich — were designated with “low” transmission levels.