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COVID-19 immunity now 20-25% in Salt Lake County residents, data shows

Posted at 9:48 PM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-20 00:00:33-05

SALT LAKE CITY — New data shows that the immunity to COVID-19 is rising in Salt Lake County, and health experts are optimistic that the community is working toward herd immunity.

On Friday, people showed up to the Mountain America Expo Center for round two of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

That means in just a week, those Salt Lake County residents will be fully vaccinated and will cross the line to the other side of COVID-19 immunity.

WATCH: Utah, Salt Lake Counties begin COVID-19 vaccine rollout for people over 65

79-year old Elaine Spear even brought her dog Bella along for the occasion, exclaiming, "I think this is wonderful!" as she rolled up her sleeve.

Spear said she's been calling everyone she knows to urge them to get the vaccine. Her second dose is one worth celebrating.

"I'm going to go home and celebrate, and call all my friends up," she said, enthusiastically. "And remotely we're all going to have a drink in celebration."

According to the Salt Lake County Health Department, the number of people who have completed their two doses of the vaccination — including Spear — is still pretty low.

"The best guess is, so right now, we are about six percent for Salt Lake County as far as individuals that are completely vaccinated," said Ilene Risk, the epidemiology bureau manager at the Salt Lake County Health Department.

However, she just found out some good news when it comes to herd immunity.

"What they have found — and this is their most recent data — is that about 20 to 25 percent of Salt Lake County residents have shown immunity from either the disease itself, or vaccine, or both," Risk explained.

That's a quarter of the population showing immunity to COVID-19. Risk credited those numbers to the University of Utah's Utah HERO Project, which has been monitoring COVID-19 activity in the community since last spring.

READ: Here's how to register for a COVID-19 vaccination in Utah

Thousands of people were tested for COVID-19 and COVID-19 antibodies at different points throughout 2020.

"20 to 25 percent is fabulous," said Dr. Stephen Alder, project lead with the Utah HERO Project.

"Fabulous," especially because, Dr. Alder explained, they estimate that the immunity rate was about 10 percent heading into December.

Dr. Alder talked about some other takeaways they're seeing from the Utah HERO Project, like finding that consumers are more active when they can go to places where they feel safe and have a mask mandate.

It's showing that statewide mandates are good for the economy, he said, and that the economy and health considerations don't have to be pitted against each other.

They're also finding that schools that follow good guidelines are seeing low COVID-19 transmission rates.

He indicated that it bodes well for where we're headed, and said hopefully we're able to get a handle on the pandemic and see a resolution in the not-too-distant future.

"Hopefully, we're talking a matter of a few months before we really start to see numbers that... give us a chance to be optimistic about how quickly we can get to, at least, what will be our new normal," he said.

But he and Risk explained, it's all dependent on continued vaccinations and measures like mask wearing and social distancing to continue the upward trend toward herd immunity.

They said experts project that 70 percent is the magic number to reach herd immunity and quash COVID.

Risk said if people don't get vaccinated, then they won't reach that number. The pandemic will become longer and more drawn out, and mask wearing will continue.

The two stressed the importance of not letting guards down just yet.

Even though Spear now has both shots, she said she will still be practicing the same safety measures.

She expressed that she's proud of being part of the community effort to strive for herd immunity.

"I'm just so happy to have the second and to be able to be part of this wonderful movement of getting everybody vaccinated," she said, adding, "And I think that everybody should."