SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – As the state continues to move forward in the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah Governor Spencer Cox provided an update Thursday morning during his monthly news conference.
Governor Cox said data shows the Delta variant’s surge of coronavirus cases has hit a peak and is now beginning to level off.
Testing is still in demand though, and the Governor said the state recently implemented greater capacity at testing sites to decrease extensive wait times.
“The last week, the longest wait times reported at these locations was 20 minutes, and most were waiting less than five minutes,” he said.
Test-to-travel pilot program
Ahead of the holiday travel season, Governor Cox said the state will offer a COVID-19 testing lane designated for travelers at the Utah Department of Health.
He said this is part of a test-to-travel program and opens Monday for Utahns visiting countries that require one of three different coronavirus tests from a recognized site.
“We’ve heard of people who have said they could only find a testing site or testing location and they’ve had to go to Las Vegas to get tested and then come back and get on an airplane,” Governor Cox said. “What we’re trying to do is make it as easy as possible for people to travel, to have it all in one location.”
The Governor said testing is free to Utahns and for non-residents, there is a charge.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for Utahns who are traveling to get those tests before they leave so they don’t get held up or stuck at airports in their country of destination,” he said.
The designated lane for travelers needing a test opens Monday and will go on for two weeks. If it’s successful, the Governor said the state will consider opening more travel sites.
Monoclonal antibody shortage
Nationwide demand for monoclonal antibodies is causing a shortage in supply. The Governor said every state only gets so much, and not everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is guaranteed an antibody transfusion.
“Unfortunately, when we have a limited resource, we have to do the best we can mathematically to prevent hospitalizations, which is what we’re trying to do,” he said. “And so it’s only those that are most likely to be hospitalized, but it’s not just for the unvaccinated, but the vaccinated as well.”
The Utah Department of Health reports it typically receives about 1,300 monoclonal antibody doses per week. But the Governor said how much a state gets is based on the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19.
And while the state’s hospitals are full of COVID patients, Governor Cox said the national average for coronavirus hospitalizations is double.
Since November, UDOH reports more than 7,000 Utahns have received an antibody infusion, preventing an estimated 900 hospitalizations.
The Governor said a cash incentive – up to $250 a person – is being put out there for Utah’s public employees and their families to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We still have far too many who have not received the vaccine,” he said.
Governor Cox announced the incentive plan by PEHP will start Friday and he encouraged other businesses to do what they can to encourage employee vaccination.
The needle continues to move here in Utah, Governor Cox said almost 73 percent of eligible Utahns have received at least one COVID-19 shot.
Thursday the Governor also talked about the state’s drought and crime in Utah. You can listen to the press conference here.