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Coronavirus cases drop, but Utah remains among states with highest infection rates

Health officials report 701 new cases Sunday and 10 more deaths.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Karen Johnson, a grief counselor with the Jordan Family Education Center, receives her second COVID-19 vaccination on Friday. Employees of the Jordan School District were invited to West Hills Middle School to receive their coronavirus vaccination, Feb. 12, 2021.

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Utah is seeing some good news in its battle against the coronavirus, but there’s plenty of work that still needs to be done.
The Utah Department of Health reported 701 new cases Sunday and Utah had only one day in the past week with more than 1,000 cases. The week before had three.
Hospitalizations have decreased as well. They dropped by one on Sunday to 241, the fewest admitted with the virus since October.
Yet, Utah still has one of the highest infection rates in the United States. It ranks fourth with 11,417 infections per 100,000 people, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Only North Dakota and South Dakota (13,025 and 12,566, respectively) and Rhode Island (11,624) have a higher rate of infection among their residents.
In addition, the Utah Health Department reported Sunday that 10 more people have died from COVID-19. That brings the state’s total death toll to 1,852.
The arrival of the vaccine no doubt has had a positive influence on the rate of transmission within the state.
While its primary benefit is protecting people from the worst manifestations of COVID-19, The Salt Lake Tribune’s Andy Larsen recently reported that the vaccine appears to limit a person’s ability to spread the virus as well. And while it may not be as effective against some of the recently discovered variants, the vaccine can still provide more than a modicum of protection.
An additional 9,123 people received the vaccine on Sunday. And a total of 607,557 Utahns have now received at least one vaccine dose and a third of those have received two since inoculation began Dec. 15. Those totals should get a figurative shot in the arm in the coming weeks after Gov. Spencer Cox’s announcement Thursday that anyone age 65 and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine. Starting March 1, people of any age with certain medical conditions will also be added to the roster of those eligible for a shot.
Dr. Brandon Webb, an infectious disease specialist for Intermountain Healthcare, said the number of people who have some kind of immunity to COVID-19 is closer to 20%. That number takes into account those who have gotten at least one shot as well as the approximately 180,000 who have recovered from the virus in the past three months.
“We’re probably somewhere just under 20% [immunity] at this point. … It’s not enough, but it is helping,” Webb said Tuesday. “And it’s a very important thing to see more and more of the population immune, because coupling that with social distancing [and] masking, it’s driving our case counts down.”
That’s good news for the state because currently when it comes to getting the vaccine into people’s arms, Utah trails most of the United States and its territories. Only 11.1% of the population has received at least one shot. That’s tied with Georgia for the second-worst percentage among the 50 states, behind Tennessee’s 11.0%.
It seems to be a supply problem more than a demand problem. Utah has distributed 93% of the doses it has received, according to the New York Times analysis, which puts it in the top five in the nation.
The department of health states on its website that 99% of the 603,900 doses delivered seven days or more ago have been administered. It notes that “some doses are reserved by providers for previously scheduled second dose appointments.”

Utah County, which has the highest rate of infection per capita in the state, has distributed the fewest number of first shots of the vaccine. San Juan County, meanwhile, has led the state in inoculation. It has at least partially vaccinated nearly twice as many more residents than those who caught the coronavirus.
Vaccinations reported administered in past day/total vaccinations administered • 9,123 / 607,557.
Number of Utahns who have received two doses • 205,388.
Cases reported in past day • 701.
Deaths reported in past day • 10 (seven occurred before Feb. 1).
Eight of those who died were between ages 65 and 84. That includes four who were in long-term care facilities: a man and a woman from Salt Lake County, a man from Utah County and a man from Davis County. Others in that age range included a man from Iron County who was not hospitalized when he died and two women and a man — from Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties, respectively — who were hospitalized.
The other victims were both older than 85. They included a Sevier County woman who was in a long-term care facility and a man from Utah County who was not hospitalized.
Hospitalizations reported in past day • 241. That’s down one from Saturday. Of those currently hospitalized, 100 are in intensive care units — one more than on Saturday.
Tests reported in past day • 5,477 people were tested for the first time. A total of 10,454 people were tested.
Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 12.79%. That’s lower than the seven-day average of 13.58%.
The new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Sunday’s rate is now at 6.7%, higher than the seven-day average of 6.31%.
Totals to date • 366,735 cases; 1,852 deaths; 14,445 hospitalizations; 2,163,613 people tested.

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