During a COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson touched on topics that included the current drought in Utah, the ongoing wildfire season, and COVID-19 cases, vaccinations and the possibility of variants due to people being unvaccinated.
Henderson started by addressing drought concerns, adding that Utah is currently facing one of the worst droughts in its history. While most of the state is a desert, she spoke to watering lawns less and conserving water.
“This drought we are experiencing this year is extremely severe, and it’s going to require us to communicate with you more about it, it’s going to require every single one of us to take action, and do our part to mitigate its terrible effects,” Henderson said. “This is one of those years that we are going to have to really be concerned about drought.”
State facilities are currently limiting the running of sprinklers, and Henderson joked that yellow is the new green.
Along with the drought, wildfire season is in full swing and with temperatures set to rise over the next week, Henderson urged Utahns to be cautious while recreating outdoors or towing vehicles.
Moving on to the COVID-19 pandemic, Henderson began to touch on some data points while urging people, businesses, organizations and more to push for vaccinations.
She said that since late March, when the COVID-19 vaccine opened for everyone aged 16 and over, there have been 22,767 total COVID-19 cases. Of those cases, 99.6% have been in unvaccinated people. Of the 1,208 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, 95% were in those unvaccinated, and of the 64 deaths, 97% have been in those that are unvaccinated.
“It should be very obvious to everyone that vaccines are working to prevent most cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” Henderson said. “Now even though the pace of vaccinations has slowed to the point that we really aren’t ordering new doses right now from the federal government, we continue to make progress although it is not as quick as we would like it to be.”
Adding that because of vaccinations people can begin to return to community gatherings and Jazz games, Henderson said that people can spend an extra 20 minutes at a pharmacy or Walmart to receive the vaccination.
Dr. Michelle Hofman, deputy director for the Utah Department of Health, noted a slight increase in COVID-19 cases right now with one reason possibly being the Memorial Day holiday. This is a result of unvaccinated people not wearing masks, and Hofman said it serves as a reminder that COVID-19 is still in Utah’s communities.
“There’s a major push right now to get as many people vaccinated as possible and really too many people are waiting to get vaccinated,” Henderson said. “That can potentially let variants take hold in the population and start this pandemic all over again. We do not want to go back to where we were last year, we do not want to be in trouble again this fall, and if we want to avoid that people need to get vaccinated.”
The state has set a goal of having 70% of adults with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by July 4 and Henderson asked businesses, community organizations, and others to encourage employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to help the state reach its goal.
To learn more about COVID-19 or the vaccine, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.