COVID cases plummet while vaccinations grow
by David Boyle
The number of San Juan County residents who have received the coronavirus vaccine continues to grow. As of February 16, more than 3,900 local residents have received the first part of the two-part vaccine. Of those, 1,413 have also received the second vaccine.
San Juan County continues to have the highest percent of residents who have been vaccinated in the State of Utah, with nearly twice as many vaccines per person as any other area of the state.
The state and federal government, along with tribal governments, have placed an emphasis on vaccinating indigenous communities who have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.
As a result, Utah Navajo Health System (UNHS) is receiving about 1,000 additional vaccines every week. The criteria for who receives the vaccine has also widened among those in the tribal communities.
The Utah Navajo Health System vaccination campaign has been so successful that the shot has been made available to all adults in communities served by UNHS and to 16- and 17-year-old children with parental permission.
Utah Navajo Health System has established several drive thru-vaccine clinics since first receiving the doses. In the past week, UNHS offered vaccination clinics in Monument Valley and Montezuma Creek, and on Tuesday, UNHS held a drive thru clinic in Blanding.
UNHS will likely be holding more drive-thru clinics in the coming weeks, and eventually they would like to make the vaccine available for walk-in appointments at their clinics.
On Thursday, February 18, a drive thru clinic will be offered in Monticello at the LDS Stake Center on Main Street. The Monticello clinic will be available to San Juan County residents, aged 60 and older, as well as essential workers, spiritual leaders, and educators.
The clinic is being offered through a partnership between San Juan Public Health, UNHS, and San Juan Health. While UNHS is providing equipment and infrastructure, the actual doses of the vaccine will come from the San Juan Public Health allotment.
It is anticipated that approximately 200 doses will be available at the clinic on Thursday.
The clinic will start at 9:30 a.m. and go until they use up the available vaccines. If you have never been a UNHS patient, you are encouraged to create a chart in advance with a UNHS clinic.
While vaccinations have gone up, active cases continue to fall.
UNHS Chief Operating Officer Byron Clarke said over the past three weeks UNHS has seen a 90 percent across the board decrease in the number of active COVID cases in their service area.
Clarke says while numbers are falling throughout the US and Utah, UNHS numbers are falling dramatically as they get closer to reaching herd immunity.
As of the most recent report on February 16, San Juan County had 50 active cases of the disease, a decrease from 105 active cases in the past week, and a decrease of nearly 250 active cases since January 26.
Currently, there are 16 active cases in the Blanding area, down 15 from the previous week.
The Montezuma Creek/Aneth area has eight active cases, a decrease of 11 in the past week.
The Monument Valley/Navajo Mountain area currently has 11 active cases, a decrease of eight in the area.
In Monticello, there are currently seven active cases, a decrease of four in the past week.
There are less than five cases each in Mexican Hat, Bluff, and the northern part of San Juan County, including Spanish Valley and La Sal.