SPANISH FORK, Utah — In front of a live audience watching his weekly briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Spencer Cox rolled up his sleeve and got his first dose of the vaccine.
"I feel great!" he told FOX 13 after he was done. "This is awesome."
The governor and First Lady Abby Cox got their vaccines when eligibility opened up to all Utahns over the age of 16. The Utah County Health Department offered it to them inside an abandoned ShopKo in Spanish Fork that has been converted into a mass vaccine clinic.
They paused to write messages on a board set up by the local health department explaining why they got the vaccine. Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson wrote "I miss seeing people's faces." Gov. Cox wrote "thank you public health and all of Utah!"
Gov. Cox urged Utahns not to wait to get their vaccine appointment scheduled. The good news is a large number of Utahns want the vaccine. In fact, more than 80% of Utahns over the age of 65 have already gotten at least one shot.
"We have administered 1,232,991 doses of COVID-19 [vaccine]," Lt. Gov. Henderson said Thursday. "Those are shots in arms, those are first and second doses combined."
Utah's Department of Health reported good news when it comes to weathering the pandemic. Percent-positivity has begun declining.
"It is great news and that means our cases will continue to follow as will our hospitalizations and our deaths," said state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn.
But she urged vigilance, especially as they wait for more people to be fully vaccinated in the state.
"We need to continue to, of course, wear face coverings, physical distance when we can, and stay home when we’re sick," Dr. Dunn said. "And, of course, get the vaccine when it’s your turn. Which now, everyone 16 and older can sign up to do so."
Gov. Cox said more doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in the next week. He told Utahns who have yet to book an appointment to keep checking, because as more doses become available, more slots will open up. But he warned against "vaccine shopping," where some people who find an earlier appointment or a brand they'd prefer forget to cancel their initial appointment — locking others out of their abandoned slot.
Gov. Cox on Wednesday signed the controversial COVID-19 "endgame" bill into law. It drops the statewide mask mandate on April 10 (with exceptions for schools and gatherings of 50+ people). But the bill also drops all public health restrictions by July 1 or sooner, if cases decline and vaccines rise to certain metrics.
The bill has alarmed some health experts and some local governments are contemplating issuing their own restrictions. Gov. Cox has defended his signing of the bill saying he negotiated with members of the Utah State Legislature who wanted to lift the mask mandate immediately.
On Thursday, the governor said he was hopeful health restrictions might be lifted sooner than July 1. He said a recent meeting with White House officials and Dr. Anthony Fauci had given him that optimism.
"That could all change, but given the trajectory we’re on right now, we anticipate those health restrictions will be gone before July 1," he said in response to a question from FOX 13. "Certainly with the amount of vaccinations, the rate of vaccinations and the declining case counts."