The rate at which coronavirus is spreading locally continued to fall from its post-holiday heights on Monday.
The Bear River Health District reported only 16 newly confirmed cases of the virus on Monday, though daily cases typically dip at the beginning of the week because fewer people getting tested over the weekends. The three-county district saw an average of only 52 new cases a day over the past seven days, however. That’s down from an average of 62 new daily cases on Feb. 8 and the six days prior.
Of the tests performed over the past seven days in the district, 17.62% have come back positive. That figure reached heights of over 35% in the first weeks of January. The state overall reported 14.1% positivity.
Consistent with the general trend over the pandemic, most of the new cases have been reported in Cache County. Over the past seven days, Cache has averaged 38 new cases a day, while Box Elder has averaged about 12. Rich County averaged 0.4 new cases per day over the same period.
While Cache County has reported three times as many coronavirus infections as the smaller Box Elder County, the latter has reported 41 COVID-19 deaths over the course of the pandemic, compared to Cache’s 31. According to health officials, this may be due to multiple factors, but Cache County’s younger overall population and lower prevalence of conditions that often complicate COVID-19 likely play a role.
Deaths per capita in both Box Elder and Cache remain comparatively low, however. Only five states are reporting fewer COVID-19 deaths per capita than Utah, where there have been 56 per 100,000 residents as of Monday. Meanwhile, Cache County is reporting 11 and Box Elder reports 20 per 100,000 residents.
Following state guidelines, the Bear River Health Department is currently vaccinating individuals 70 and older, K-12 educators and staff, health care providers and first responders. The next stage in Utah’s vaccine rollout is set to begin Monday, March 1, when people between 65 and 69 as well as anyone 18 or older with certain high COVID-risk medical conditions will become eligible.
BRHD smoothed out a vaccination snag it ran into last week when people taking advantage of unexpected extra doses weren’t always cancelling prior vaccination appointments, leading to full clinics on paper but several no-shows. When health officials realized what was happening, on Friday they asked people to bump up their appointments if possible to avoid wasting any of the temperature-sensitive vaccine that had already been pulled from the freezer in anticipation of the number of people scheduled for last week’s clinics. The open slots filled quickly, according to Gov. Spencer Cox.
BRHD spokesperson Josh Greer said that the department’s vaccine clinics have been busy, but appointments are starting to slow down to the point where the department would probably be ready to move on to the next stage of the rollout, if the governor allowed it.
“We’re ready,” Greer told The Herald Journal on Friday. “If he was to allow us to move to that population earlier than March 1, we would be ready. And I think that we’ve offered the vaccine to our current priority group, they’ve taken advantage of it, but I think we’re running out of takers at this point. So we’re definitely ready.”
For more information on BRHD’s vaccine clinics, visit brhd.org/covid-19/vaccine-information.