Any Utahn 16 or older can get the vaccine starting Wednesday.
Starting Wednesday, Utah will fully open eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination. That means anybody 16 or older can make an appointment to get the shot.
Governor Spencer Cox announced the change March 18 during a monthly news conference, ahead of the previous April 1 target date.
Two days later, the Southeast Utah Health Department began allowing local residents to schedule a vaccine appointment through the department’s online scheduling portal. As of Tuesday, March 23, the health department had two appointments remaining in March, and more available in April.
As of Tuesday, Moab Regional Hospital had outdated information about vaccine eligibility on its website; according to its COVID-19 hotline, the hospital will open up appointments on Friday, when eligibility for the vaccine through the hospital expands to anyone 18 years or older.
The hospital and health department administer the Moderna vaccine; City Market administers the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
One study of the Moderna vaccine indicated that it was more than 94% efficacious, and a separate study indicated that Johnson & Johnson was 85% effective against severe disease and 66% when also considering moderate cases. However, health officials have advised that the different conditions in each study make the two hard to compare.
All vaccines currently available to Americans were 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death in studies.
Cleaning up Thompson Springs
The Grand County Commission on March 16 unanimously approved a $7,500 appropriation from its $20,000 discretionary budget on clean-up efforts in Thompson Springs, in part to reduce fire risk raised by a recent house fire in the town.
In January, Thompson Springs Fire Chief Mark Marcum reported to the Grand County Commission, which doubles as the board of the Thompson Springs fire department, about a December house fire on Bogart Lane, down the road from his house.
According to Marcum, he was dispatched to the fire down the road on Dec. 2 around 7:45 p.m. — well past sunset. He drove past the burning house on his way to get the fire truck from the department’s building, and with the high winds going on the night, he said the situation was “already looking bad.”
Marcum returned to the scene to see that two vehicles near the house had already caught flame, but nobody died, no other structures burned, and first responders kept the fire relatively contained. It never got to the size that Marcum feared it could.
“Two abandoned trailer homes were within four feet of the fire, and I knew if those caught in fire, we’d be in real trouble because it would just be a domino effect with other buildings in that area,” Marcum said.
Marcum said he is “the only qualified firefighter” out in Thompson Springs, so when he showed up the evening of Dec. 2 at his neighbor’s house, he said he knew he had to play the role of fire chief, pump operator, firefighter, safety officer, and others.
Of the conditions that served to make Dec. 2 a wake-up call for fire safety in Thompson Springs, not all are under direct control of the Grand County Commission — the high winds, the lack of snow on the ground, the location of the fire.
However, a plan is now in place to address the low-hanging fruit: flammable material left over from abandoned structures that somebody simply needs to go out and remove.
“After extensive work by the Thompson Springs Special Fire District, Grand County Planning and Zoning, Southeast Utah Health Department, the County Commission, Grand County Solid Waste District and Monument Waste, a plan has been developed for an initial clean-up,” said Grand County Commissioner Trisha Hedin of the effort.
The clean-up is scheduled for June 10 through 15. The funds will go to provide large dumpsters, hauling and disposal of household waste, construction waste, metal and tires.
“The overall objective is to begin to mitigate fire issues that exist within this community and eventually leading to a revitalization of our bedroom community,” Hedin said.
Hedin said next steps to “revitalize” Thompson Springs will involve revisiting platting of property parcels to ensure they are properly documented and looking at the zoning of the area, as well as seeking grant funding to develop the area and keep it well-maintained.
“We haven’t put any money into Thompson Springs in my tenure on the commission, and I don’t remember anything before,” said Grand County Commissioner Mary McGann. “I think it’s long overdue that that little town that has seen better days is part of our jurisdiction and our responsibility.”