SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s rural hospitals are now vaccinating against COVID-19 with facilities in Heber City and Park City announcing front-line workers receiving injections this week.
The Utah Department of Health said Thursday that 14,822 vaccines have been administered in the Beehive State. The news comes as the number of positive COVID-19 tests continues to climb, with the agency reporting 2,892 new cases on Thursday, bringing the state’s overall number of infections to 260,589 since the pandemic arrived.
Another nine Utahns have died of the novel coronavirus, putting the state’s death toll at 1,204. One previous death has been removed from the total and is under further investigation, the health department said in its news release.
The first doses of COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer arrived in Utah on Dec. 14, with the initial wave of medical personnel receiving inoculations the following day. Earlier this week, hospitals began receiving the Moderna vaccine as well.
Intermountain Healthcare began administering the COVID-19 vaccine at Heber Valley and Park City hospitals Wednesday — the first rural hospitals to administer the vaccine in Utah. Intermountain has vaccinated about 6,000 caregivers, it reported in a news release Wednesday.
Tessa Vasquez, Heber Valley Hospital medical-surgical nurse manager, was among the first recipients of the inoculation. She was optimistic about the impact the vaccine could have on the community, she said in a video released by Intermountain showing vaccinations being given.
“The vaccine for COVID is so important,” she said. “We have a lot of caregivers that are exposed to it on a daily basis, and this helps to keep them safe, helps to keep it from getting to their family in the community, and it helps them to be able to be here and not have to miss work because of being sick so that we have enough people to care for the community when they need it.”
Heber Valley Hospital emergency room physician Dr. Doug Vogel said he was very excited about this significant step in helping to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“I just think how often in the community we social distance, we wash our hands and we wear a mask. I can just think of how much fatigue there is in that,” he said. “Then I come to the emergency department where more and more the majority of patients I’m seeing are having cough, shortness of breath and fever, and I wear all the protective gear as do my colleagues. Getting the vaccine is just another line of defense so we can stay vigilant and continue doing what we’re doing, but at the same time just have the security that we’ve got another thing going for us.”
For Brittany Badeau, a pediatric intensive care unit nurse at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, being able to be vaccinated is a morale-boosting moment for herself and her colleagues.
”Watching all these other nurses lined up for something like this, the energy is great in here today and I feel like it’s hopefully the start of an end for us,” she said. “I feel really grateful to have this even available to me, and I highly encourage everyone else to get it as well.
“To just have something like this shows us the light at the end,” she added.
In Tooele County, the first group of medical professionals are expected to receive the Moderna vaccine beginning next week, a Mountain West Medical Center spokeswoman said.
The statewide rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine to other groups, beginning with long-term care facilities, will continue throughout the coming months.
The rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 2,379 per day, while the average for percent of positive laboratory tests registered at 24%.
There are currently 561 people hospitalized with the virus, increasing the total number of hospitalizations from the start of the outbreak to 10,406.
Among the deceased were five men and four women. They were:
• Two Salt Lake County men between 65-84 who were not hospitalized.
• Two Salt Lake County women ages 65-84 who were hospitalized.
• A Salt Lake County man over 85 who was hospitalized.
• A Davis County man between 45-64 who was hospitalized.
• A Weber County woman age resident 45-64 who was hospitalized
• Two Utah County residents, one a man over 85 in a long-term care facility and a woman between 25 and 55 who was hospitalized at time of death.
The health department said it will not be updating COVID-19 numbers on Christmas Day. The next report will be on Saturday.