COVID-19 increasing among younger age groups; local health department encourages masks in schools

ST. GEORGE — While the COVID-19 infection rates in Southern Utah have remained relatively steady in the last week, there are indications of a sharp rise in the number of people infected between the ages of 5 and 15. 

Stock photo. | Photo by eggeeggjiew/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

There are also signs that those between one to 14 years of age are being hospitalized for COVID-19 on an increasing basis, according to data released by the state health department.

With the surge among the young, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department is now encouraging everyone in schools, as well as other indoor public places, to wear face masks to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

“Cases in younger age groups appear to be increasing along with the overall case increase,” said David Heaton, spokesperson for the health district. “We encourage everyone age 12 and over to get vaccinated and residents of all ages to wear face masks in public where social distancing is not practical, including schools, businesses and social events.”

The local heath district’s director, Dr. David Blodgett, has been clear in the past that he is strongly opposed to any kind of local mask mandate either in schools or in public places. He cites such a mandate actually discouraging such behavior and encouraging more political dissension.  

However, the local health district is making a stronger push for people to take personal responsibility to mask up without government intervention. 

Local schools are now fully reopened, with Washington County Schools now open for two weeks. The number of active infections in the Washington County School District according to the Utah Department of Health is up 84% since Monday, from 24 to 44. 

Elementary school kids arrive at school from the school bus. Stock image | Photo by Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

The number of active infections in the school district never exceeded 50 last school year,  according to the Utah Department of Health. 

Iron County and other school districts locally remain steady at around four or less infections among staff and students.

Statewide, according to the Utah Department of Health, there has been a 581.9% increase (from 160 to 1,091) in infections for 5 to 13 year-olds from the same period a year ago. Besides the more infectious nature of the delta variant, at this time a year ago, some school districts like Salt Lake City’s remained in online classes at this point and all school districts were under a mandatory mask order. 

The Utah Department of Health also reports that while there were no people ages one to 14 hospitalized for COVID-19 at this time a year ago, there are now more than a dozen statewide. Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City is now operating beyond capacity, according to Intermountain Healthcare.

On Thursday, Kane County joined three other Southern Utah counties in a status of high transmission level in the state’s COVID-19 Transmission Index. That leaves Garfield as the only county in Southern Utah not in a high transmission level. The Centers for Disease Control advises that everyone, whether vaccinated or not, should wear masks in indoor settings in areas of high transmission. 

Meanwhile, per data from the  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, St. George Regional Hospital has been at or above capacity several times in the last week. The number of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit alone has been exceeding 50% throughout the week.

There have been six deaths locally from COVID-19 in the last week, with half being under 64 years old. 

Vaccines on the rise

COVID-19 vaccinations locally are up from about 490 a day at the start of the month to 719 reported Thursday – around a 40% increase.

A resident receives a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine inside the St. George Active Life Center for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department’s COVID-19 second-dose vaccination clinic on April 6, 2021. St. George, Utah | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The Federal Drug Administration, which earlier in the week approved full, non-emergency use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, has also approved a third booster shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for immunocompromised individuals. 

While the data is not conclusive as of yet, there is some evidence reported by the CDC that breakthrough infections of vaccinated individuals have been more likely to happen among immunocompromised or the elderly.

The FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine on a non-emergency basis also opens the door for the vaccine to be mandated by government entities in Utah, including schools. 

Utah Code 26-28-101, passed by the state Legislature last May, banned the mandating of an “emergency COVID-19 vaccine.” 

The author of the bill told Fox13Now earlier in the week that the code has now expired. 

While schools already mandate vaccines such as those for measles, polio and chickenpox, Blodgett and the Southwest Utah Public Health District have strongly urged that there not be such a requirement for the COVID-19 vaccine in local schools. 

In a file photo, Dr. David Blodgett, director of the Southwest Public Utah Health Department, speaks to the Washington County Commission about how he believes government mandates harm public health efforts, St. George, Utah, Aug. 3, 2021
Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

However, in a statement released Thursday by the health department, Blodgett asked Southern Utahns to take personal responsibility and get the vaccine.

“Our vaccines are safe and highly effective. We’ve been able to vaccinate everyone who wanted the shots, but still need more of our residents to do so in order to reduce the burden of hospitalizations and deaths,” the statement read. “It is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your community at this point in the pandemic, especially considering a likely surge in cases as fall approaches.”

But there are stronger encouragements growing for people to get vaccinated. On Thursday, health provider SelectHealth announced it will be providing $100 to each member in Utah who has not previously been vaccinated who goes through and receives a full vaccination.

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Aug. 26, according to Utah Department of Health)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 33,584 (7-day average of 93.71 per day, up 1.9% in last week)

Active cases: 1,543 (falling)

  • Washington County (High in Transmission Index): 446.06 per 100K rate in 14 days, rising
  • Iron County (High): 472.29, falling
  • Kane County (Low): 177.53, rising
  • Garfield County (Low): 178.18 falling
  • Beaver County (High): 402.38, rising

Hospitalized: 57 (rising)

Deaths: 303 (six since Aug. 19)

New infections per day in Southern Utah:

  • Friday (Aug. 20): 116
  • Saturday (Aug. 21): 90
  • Sunday (Aug. 22): 63
  • Monday (Aug. 23): 60
  • Tuesday (Aug. 24): 93
  • Wednesday (Aug. 25): 126
  • Thursday (Aug. 26): 107

Current Utah seven-day average: 1,153 (rising)

Fully vaccinated in  Southern Utah: 97,211 (38.6% fully vaccinated, +0.7%)

  • St. George: 42.18% fully vaccinated (+0.75%) 
  • Cedar City: 33.32% (+0.57%)
  • Washington City: 38.5% (+0.66%)
  • Ivins/Santa Clara: 46.11% (+0.76%)
  • Hurricane/LaVerkin: 32.29% (+0.54%)
  • Enterprise/Veyo/Springdale/Hildale: 37.89%   (+0.42%)
  • Beaver/Garfield/Kane counties: 37.08% (+0.56%)

Southern Utah schools active COVID-19 infections (as of Aug. 26, according to Utah Department of Health)

  • Washington County School District: 44 (rising since Aug. 23)
  • Iron County School District: 1-4 (steady)
  • Kane County School District: 1-4 (steady)
  • Garfield County School District: 0 (steady)
  • Beaver County School District: 0 (steady)
  • Southwest Utah Charter Schools: 6 (rising)
  • Southwest Utah Private Schools: 0 (steady)

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

  • Those who can currently get first dose of the vaccine: Everyone ages 12 and over. Those 12-18 can only receive the Pfizer vaccine. Use to find clinics that have the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Those who can receive the second dose: Those who received their first injection 28 days or more before the appointment time.
  • Those who can receive a booster dose: Those who received Pfizer or Moderna previously and are immunocompromised.
  • The Southwest Utah Public Health Department and most pharmacies and stores are offering walk-up appointments.
  • Must wear a short-sleeve shirt at appointment and should have a personal ID.
  • Vaccines are free of charge.

Washington County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department St. George office, 620 S. 400 East, St George

For hours and more information: Click here 

Iron County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Cedar City office, 260 DL Sargent Dr., Cedar City, 84721.

For hours and more information: Click here 

Kane County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Kanab office, 445 N. Main St., Kanab.

For hours and more information: Click here 

Garfield County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Panguitch office, 601 Center St., Panguitch.

For hours and more information: Click here 

Beaver County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Beaver Office,  75 1175 North, Beaver.

For hours and more information: Click here 

St. George Regional Hospital/Intermountain Healthcare:

Where: 400 East Campus St. George Regional Hospital,  544 S. 400 East, St. George.

Reservations: Click to register

FourPoints Health:

Where: Various locations.

For hours and more information:: Click here

Revere Health:

Where: Revere Health Campus,  2825 E. Mall Drive, St. George.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 745 N Dixie Dr in St. George and 915 Red Cliffs Dr. in Washington City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 1189 E. 700 South in St. George and 3520 Pioneer Parkway in Santa Clara.

Reservations: Click to register

Lin’s Marketpace:

Where: 1930 W. Sunset Blvd.  and 2928 E. Mall Drive in St. George, 1120 State St. in Hurricane and 150 N Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register

Smith’s Food and Drug:

Where: 20 N. Bluff St. and 565 S. Mall Drive in St. George and 633 S. Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 275 S River Rd. in St. George.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 2610 Pioneer Rd. in St. George, 625 W. Telegraph St. in Washington City, 180 N. 3400 West in Hurricane and 1330 S. Providence Center Dr. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register

Family pharmacies:

Where: Several locations

Reservations: Use to find a location near you

COVID-19 information resources

St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.

Check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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