IN FOCUS Discussion: June’s COVID-19 update

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – In the past few months, the Delta variant of COVID-19 has ravaged through India and the United Kingdom. Currently, there are six variants of concern, but health officials predict that the Delta mutation will become the dominant strain of the virus in the United States by fall. Currently, the variant represents more than 20 percent of COVID-19 infections in the country.

Experts with the University of Utah Health said vaccines have proven effective against variants of concern. But vaccination rates have dwindled in the state and across the country, particular among the younger population, even as more shots became available. According to the Utah Department of Health’s website, only a little more than half of Utah’s eligible population is not fully vaccinated. Utah also ranks in the bottom five states with the lowest vaccination rates.

From a news perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic presents a daily challenge when it comes to information. The daily demand for actionable data often butts heads with the pace of science. That’s why our CW30 News at 7 p.m. team takes a monthly look at where we are in the pandemic, to try and cut through the daily onslaught of information and offer some perspective. In Wednesday’s show, we looked at the pandemic with the best information we have now, what it means, and what we can look ahead to.

Brian Cowan, the executive director of the Weber-Morgan Health Department, joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. He discussed the percentage of our eligible population that is vaccinated, the effectiveness of vaccines, whether we’re seeing a low rate of younger people getting vaccinated, other demographics that have low vaccination rates, the general plan to get more people vaccinated, why he thinks there’s been a recent uptick in cases, and what he’s most concerned about at this stage of the pandemic.

Dr. Nels Elde, associate professor of human genetics at the University of Utah, explained what we know so far about the Delta variant of COVID-19, how concerned we should be about the mutation, how effective our vaccines are against variants, the “fitness” in the arms race between viruses and immune systems, trying to balance the evaluation of variants with giving good information to the public, and what he’s most concerned about at this stage of the pandemic.

Dr. Fred Adler, professor of mathematics and biological science at the University of Utah, talked about mathematical modeling on the nature of the COVID-19 virus. He discussed what factors he used in his modeling, the likelihood that COVID could become the equivalent of the common cold, other factors that may affect the outcome he didn’t model for, how vaccinations play into the models, whether he thinks the new information might affect the decision of those who are already vaccine-hesitant, and where he thinks we may be in the pandemic in the next 10 years.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Cowan, Dr. Elde, and Dr. Adler, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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