SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Officials said Utah will fall short of getting 70% of adults to receive one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the Fourth of July. With many Utahns unvaccinated and large celebrations this weekend, state and health leaders are concerned for the unvaccinated.
For those who celebrate Independence Day, the holiday often involves attending parades, barbecues, rodeos or firework shows; but last year, many events cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Restrictions have eased and many events are making a comeback, but in some ways, officials said this holiday is more of a concern than others.
“For one thing, we do have the vaccine present, but we have only half of the population vaccinated…We have a population that’s not nearly as scared as they were a year ago,” said Dr. Russell Vinik, the chief medical operations officer with the University of Utah Health. “A population who’s really let their guard down, who’s willing to go into large crowds without wearing a mask.”
“I wouldn’t want to hang out with a bunch of unvaccinated people over the Fourth, I would be very careful about that,” said Gov. Spencer Cox during Thursday’s COVID-19 press conference.
One and a half million Utahns have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Utah Department of Health reports it makes up 61.1% of all eligible Utahns.
If attending a large holiday celebration, Dr. Vinik said statistically, about half of Utahns are not vaccinated.
“That means if you go out in the crowd, half of the people you are around are not vaccinated,” he said. “Now, the CDC guidelines say that vaccinated people don’t necessarily need to wear a mask, when you look at that crowd and ask yourself, ‘Are half of the people wearing masks?’ the answer is generally no.”
Dr. Vinik and Gov. Cox said this weekend’s events are likely to cause an uptick in already growing COVID-19 cases.
“With or without a holiday, cases are likely to go up,” Dr. Vinik said. “[But we do] completely expect to see a significant increase, knowing that cases are up, knowing that large populations are not vaccinated, and knowing this new Delta variant is the predominant variant in Utah.”
“Look, if you’re unvaccinated, you should be worried this Fourth of July, you should be very worried this Fourth of July,” Gov. Cox said.
With the possibility of more COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks, Dr. Vinik said it’s a concern as hospitals statewide always see more injury patients this time of year.
“Last year, there was a lot less going on…people were not getting into situations that cause trauma, burns, and so we had a lot more capacity at this time last year than we do this year,” he said. “We’re going into the Fourth of July weekend with a full hospital.”
With the holiday weekend here, Dr. Vinik reminds Utahns to stay safe and healthy.
“COVID is still here, take care of yourselves. As much as we want it to be over, it’s not over. You can only control yourself and your family; do what you can to help yourself,” he said.
If a vaccinated person learns a maskless individual is not vaccinated, Dr. Vinik encourages people to not become confrontational, but rather do what they can to be safe.
“The best thing we can do is to take care of ourselves and our surroundings and think about what situations we put ourselves in,” he said. “And then if we are going to get in those situations, it’s not a big deal to wear a mask.”