SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – With Governor Spencer J. Cox absent for the first time since taking office during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson gave an update on the state’s status on Thursday at the Utah State Capitol.
After giving her update, which touched strongly on the importance of vaccines to prevent infections, hospitalizations, and death, Henderson asked Utah businesses to encourage and enable employees to get their shots by providing incentives.
On whether or not the state would provide a lottery or raffle sort of incentive, Henderson replied it is not likely to happen.
“The legislature put a bit of a kibosh on the state providing any kind of incentive for people, so that’s something that we can’t really do right now,” Henderson explained.
Developing a lottery or raffle incentive was something that had been discussed in previous COVID-19 briefings, with Gov. Cox voicing his support for similar programs that had been produced in other states.
However, after initial excitement at the idea of a state-funded incentive, monetary or otherwise, has seemed to die out with Henderson’s comments on Thursday. Instead, the state’s top leadership is calling on businesses to make incentives available to encourage their employees to get the vaccine. Henderson also mentioned businesses or other organizations, such as church groups, wanting to set up a pop-up clinic can easily do so.
“Be bold, be generous,” she asked of businesses looking to provide incentives.
At the start of the briefing, Henderson began her presentation at the podium by touching on three other issues that were affecting the state; water conversation, wildfire danger, and racism towards minority business owners.
Asking Utahns to converse water during what is expected to be one of the driest summers ever, Henderson pleaded with residents to embrace a more yellow look on their lawns.
“Yellow is the new green,” she stated as a possible tagline for this summer’s conditions.
The Lt. Gov. also mentioned the high risk the state faces for wildfires this summer due to the arid climate and weather conditions before addressing the racist vandalism that affected the World Famous Yum Yum Food Truck last week.
“Racism can be found anywhere,” she stated. “It doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t be this way.”
Henderson thanked those who rallied around the Filipino food truck owners and condemned those who committed the act of racism.
Moving into the COVID-19 briefings, Henderson drilled on the need for Utahns who are not vaccinated to do so and to do it quickly. According to Henderson, the statistics on infections, hospitalizations and deaths due to the coronavirus clearly indicate that
Since the vaccine was made available to those age 16 and up in late March, Utah has had 22,767 total cases. Of that number, 99.6% have been to unvaccinated people, Henderson stated. Additionally, 95% of hospitalizations have occurred with unvaccinated folks with 62 of the 64 reported deaths being attributed to unvaccinated residents.
“It should be obvious to most everyone that the vaccines are working to prevent most cases, hospitalizations, and deaths,” Henderson said.
Henderson was joined in the briefing by the Utah Department of Health’s deputy director, Michelle Hofmann, who has been the medical community’s representative since former state epidemiologist Angela Dunn took a position with Salt Lake County in the spring.
Hofmann addressed a small spike in cases that occurred this week, saying it could be attributed to Memorial Day weekend activities. However, she stated that the cases this time around paled in comparison to last year.
Hofmann also added that a switch in reporting and data collection will show an increase of about 1% in cases and counts, but that the new system will give a more accurate look at the situation.
Still, like Henderson, Hofmann implored Utahns to get vaccinated and especially to get eligible children vaccinated.
“We’re not out of the woods,” she stated.