Southern Utah not seeing the same downward trend of COVID-19 as rest of the state; new record for deaths

Nurses and doctors attend to a COVID-19 patient on a ventilator at a Utah hospital in an updated photo | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — While the state of Utah as a whole has been seeing its COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations go down in the last week, the same cannot be said for Southern Utah, which set a new pandemic record for deaths this week. 

Staff member services a person being tested for COVID-19 at the TestUtah testing site at Tech Ridge, St. George, Utah, Sept. 2, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The Utah Department of Health said Utah’s COVID-19 infection rates have gone down 16.4% in the last week. In Southern Utah, however, they are down 2.2%.

“Our decline may be a little delayed compared to other parts of the state,” said David Heaton, spokesperson for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, who did not have an explanation for why that decline has been delayed.

The 16 people who are reported to have died in the last week in Southern Utah by the Utah Department of Health set a new high mark since the start of the pandemic, breaking the 15 who died on the week of Labor Day Weekend.

About 13% of the 351 Southern Utahns who have died of COVID-19 have died this month. There have been 45 people locally who are reported to have died of the disease since Sept. 1 by the Utah Department of Health.

It is not specified how many those who have died were unvaccinated. However, last week St. George Regional Hospital reported that 86% of those hospitalized and 93% of those in the intensive care unit with COVID-19 were unvaccinated. 

According to the Utah Department of Health as of Thursday, of the 1,617,454 people in the state who have been fully vaccinated, 827 of them – approximate 0.05% – have been hospitalized, and 106 have died – 0.007%. 

There are no records in the state of anyone dying because of a side effect of receiving the vaccine. 

Map shows the current level of each county in Utah according to the COVID-19 Transmission Index provided by the Utah Department of Health as of Sept. 23, 2021 | Photo courtesy Utah Department of Health, St. George News | Click to enlarge

The number of people actively infected with COVID-19 continues to rise locally, with Iron County continuing to lead the way. At this point, one out of every 100 Iron County residents has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks.

The rate of infection has nearly doubled in Garfield County in the last week – from 395.96 per 100,000 to 732.53. Panguitch, which had seen the lowest infection rate among the five counties at the start of August, is now the second-highest. 

There are two areas of Southern Utah seeing a drop in COVID-19 infections in the last week: Kane and Beaver counties.

Based on the 14-day gestation cycle of the virus, it is too early to indicate if the Ironman World Championship weekend had any effect on the rate of COVID-19 infections locally, though health experts have previously told St. George News the outdoor nature of the event means it’s less likely to have the same impact of Labor Day weekend. 

Health officials have also continuously said that the effect of outside influences like out-of-state visitors has not had as much impact on local infection rates as the person-to-person transmissions among locals in indoor, household settings. 

Utah, in its entirety, has seen its seven-day average of new infections drop in the last week from 1,675 to 1,401, according to the Utah Department of Health. However, it is still considerably higher than the 400 infections per day that was a previous benchmark the department used as an indicator of whether the pandemic was out of control. 

The number of locals hospitalized with COVID-19 is also on the rise again, hitting 70 and at the third-highest level of the pandemic. 

Vaccinations continue to rise steadily

The number of people fully vaccinated in Southern Utah stands at 41.6% and has been increasing steadily between 0.7 and 0.9% weekly in the last month. At that rate, a majority of Southern Utahns should be fully vaccinated by the first week of December – almost a year after the COVID-19 vaccines were first introduced locally. 

Stock photo.| Photo by
Prostock-Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Much of that number came in the initial rush for the vaccine in the first few months among those ages 65 and above – where more than 85% of people in that age demographic are fully vaccinated. 

Since then, the demand has been much lower among those under 65. At the same time, the death, hospitalization and infection rate among those 45 and younger has substantially increased. Half of the Southern Utahns who have died of COVID-19 in the last week were under 64. 

Of Southern Utah’s geographic areas, Ivins/Santa Clara (48.44% fully vaccinated) continues to lead the way. Among the areas least vaccinated are Hurricane/LaVerkin (35.02%), Cedar City (36.35%), and the combined Beaver, Garfield and Kane counties (39.87%).

The lowest infection rate over the last 14 days locally according to the Utah Department of Health is the combined Enterprise/Veyo/Springdale/Hildale area (492.21 per 100,000) followed by Ivins/Santa Clara (550.78). The highest are Cedar City (1,145.21), Hurricane/LaVerkin (825.82) and St. George (689.18).

Schools level off

One area that has seen a steadying in COVID-19 infections – and even a reduction in some cases – are schools. For the first time in the school year, the Washington County School District saw its rate of new COVID-19 infections plateau in the last week after rising each of the previous weeks.

Canyon View High School, Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 18, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

For the second straight week, Iron County’s district saw a reduction, though at the same time Iron County also has the schools locally with the largest outbreaks.  

Of note, the Grand County School District in Moab, which is one of only two school districts in the state with a mask mandate in its schools, has no active COVID-19 infections in its schools, according to the Utah Department of Health. 

The other school district with a mask mandate, the Salt Lake School District, has a fewer maximum number of students and staff infected –126 – than the up to 133 infections in the Washington County School District. However, Washington County has more students enrolled – 34,771 – than the Salt Lake district’s 23,710.    

The Utah Department of Health does not provide an exact total for school districts, only an estimate.

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Thursday, according to Utah Department of Health)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 37,240 (7-day average of 136.14 per day, down 2.2% in last week)

Active cases: 2,632 (rising)

  • Washington County (High in Transmission Index): 694.99 per 100K rate in 14 days, rising
  • Iron County (High): 1099.58, rising
  • Kane County (High): 570.63, falling
  • Garfield County (High): 732.53 rising
  • Beaver County (High): 536.51 falling

Hospitalized: 70 (rising)

Deaths: 351 (16 since Sept. 16)

New infections per day in Southern Utah:

  • Friday (Sept. 17): 188
  • Saturday (Sept. 18): 151
  • Sunday (Sept. 19): 131
  • Monday (Sept. 20): 62
  • Tuesday (Sept. 21): 119
  • Wednesday (Sept. 22): 141
  • Thursday (Sept. 23): 161

Current Utah seven-day average: 1,401 (falling)

Fully vaccinated in  Southern Utah: 104,729 (41.6% fully vaccinated, +0.9%)

  • St. George: 45.4% fully vaccinated (+0.8%) 
  • Cedar City: 36.35% (+0.85%)
  • Washington City: 41.57% (+0.77%)
  • Ivins/Santa Clara: 48.44% (+0.6%)
  • Hurricane/LaVerkin: 35.02% (+0.84%)
  • Enterprise/Veyo/Springdale/Hildale: 40.59% (+1.01%)
  • Beaver/Garfield/Kane counties: 39.87% (+0.8%)

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

NOTE: Utah Department of Health currently providing only ranges of the number of infections in each district, rather than exact figures. Figures may be an overall undercount as not all infections among students are reported to the state.

    • Washington County School District: 37 to 133 (steady since Sept. 16)
    • Iron County School District: 30 to 51 (falling)
    • Kane County School District: 2-8 (falling)
    • Garfield County School District: 1-4 (steady)
    • Beaver County School District: 1-4 (rising)
    • Southwest Utah Charter Schools: 5-20 (rising)
    • Southwest Utah Private Schools: 1-4 (steady)

Schools in yellow (In danger of moving to test-to-stay): None
Schools in red (Students/staff must test negative to attend): None
Top 5 schools: Canyon View Middle (Iron) 7 active infections, Cedar South School (Iron) 6, Canyon View High (Iron) 5, Cedar Middle (Iron) 5 ,  Hurricane School (Washington) 5

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 vaccinefinder.org 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: Call (435) 673-6131 to determine if vaccine is available.

Albertsons:

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

Reservations: Click to register

Harmons:

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

Target:

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

Reservations: Click to register

Walmart:

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 vaccinefinder.org 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, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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