• Utah’s weekend COVID-19 numbers slightly lower as 1,516 new cases are reported
    by Wendy Leonard on January 24, 2021 at 8:30 pm

    Utah National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Sean Conorich administers a COVID-19 rapid test to Sandy Tiemann at the Fairpark in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News13 new deaths reported on Sunday SALT LAKE CITY — Another 13 people have died in Utah because of COVID-19, bringing the state’s pandemic death toll to 1,595 in less than a year. One of them, who may not yet have been counted in the state totals, is Rufino Rodriguez, a respiratory therapist at Utah Valley Hospital, who died from the disease on Saturday. The “heart-wrenching event,” Sharon Peterson, a friend of Rodriguez’s said, comes after two intensive care nurses who worked at the hospital also contracted COVID-19. One of them died as a patient in the hospital’s intensive care unit and the other ultimately required a dual-lung transplant in Florida after COVID-19 destroyed her lungs. “This Utah Valley Hospital ICU community has taken a heavy hit in the past few months,” she said. Co-workers, family and friends held a vigil for Rodriguez outside the hospital on Saturday, showing him support and hope. “He was a dear friend, mentor and member of my family and will be missed beyond measure,” said Tami Cooke, a nurse who worked with Rodriguez for 21 years. “We were Life Flight team members for over nine years, he taught me how to be a better nurse.” A Life Flight helicopter and crew flew by Rodriguez’s hospital window on Saturday, shortly before he died. The Utah Department of Health reported 1,516 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, resulting from the novel coronavirus. The rolling seven-day average number of new cases each day is 1,794, with the average percent of positive tests at 19.4% The state has tested 1,965,485 people in Utah for COVID-19, including an increase of 7,331 since Saturday. There are 461 people being treated with the disease at Utah hospitals. Of the 13 newly reported deaths, four occurred prior to Dec. 31, according to the health department. To combat the spread of disease, the state has vaccinated 228,348 people, 6,073 more than was reported on Saturday. The health department reports 28,167 people in Utah have received two doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. New COVID-19 deaths reported on Sunday are: A Salt Lake City man between the ages of 65 and 84 who was hospitalized at the time of his death. A Salt Lake County woman between 65 and 84 who was a long-term care facility resident. A Salt Lake County man older than 85 who was a long-term care facility resident. A Salt Lake County man between 45 and 64 who was not hospitalized. A Uintah County man between 65 and 84 who was not hospitalized. A Utah County man between 25 and 44 who was a long-term care facility resident. Three Utah County men between 65 and 84 who were hospitalized. A Utah County woman older than 85 who was a long-term care facility resident. A Washington County woman between 65 and 84 who was a long-term care facility resident. A Washington County woman older than 85 who was not hospitalized. A Weber County woman between 65 and 84 who was not hospitalized. For more information on Utah’s response to the pandemic, visit

  • Coronavirus: Utah responds to the pandemic
    by Wendy Leonard on January 24, 2021 at 8:05 pm

    Utah has seen 336,405 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,595 total deaths as of Sunday, according to the Utah Department of Health. That’s an increase of 1,516 cases from Saturday. Thirteen additional deaths were reported. Here are the latest numbers. Total number of COVID-19 cases: 336,405 Total reported people tested: 1,965,485 Vaccines administered: 228,348 Total COVID-19 hospitalizations: 13,016 Current COVID-19 hospitalizations: 461 Total COVID-19 deaths: 1,595 Single-day high for reported cases: 4,672 (Dec. 31) Single-day high for reported deaths: 30 (Dec. 17 and Jan. 21) Recently On Saturday, the Utah Department of health reported that 15,148 more people have received the COVID-19 vaccine in the state. A doctor on Friday warned that Utahns must continue to follow health precautions even after receiving both vaccine doses, or risk another surge in COVID-19 cases. Nearly 26,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines are sitting on shelves at federally contracted pharmacies throughout Utah as the state matched its deadliest day of the pandemic Thursday. Utah Rep. Cory Maloy, R-Lehi, has introduced a bill to regulate health departments from being able to force churches to close and prohibit visitors at long-term care facilities. Even as a post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases appears to be winding down, health experts warned Tuesday that Utahns still must continue taking the same precautions against spreading the deadly virus after they are vaccinated. Utah opened a new mass-vaccination site at Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy on Monday as deaths in the state reached 1,500. Worldwide Globally, the novel coronavirus pandemic has now infected 97,464,094 and killed 2,112,689 people as of Sunday, according to the World Health Organization. Read more of our coronavirus coverage.

  • COVID-19 vaccines appear to be less effective against new mutations, Dr. Fauci says
    by Herb Scribner on January 24, 2021 at 6:00 pm

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Washington. | Associated PressDr. Anthony Fauci said recently that the COVID-19 vaccines on market might be less effective Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that the available COVID-19 vaccines appear to be less effective against the new strains of the coronavirus, CNBC reports. What happened Fauci, the White House health advisor, said Thursday that the new available COVID-19 vaccines — specifically the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — offer some help against the new mutations of COVID-19 popping up across the world. But there’s still some concern. “We’re following very carefully the one in South Africa, which is a little bit more concerning, but nonetheless not something that we don’t think we can handle,” Fauci said, per CNBC.Fauci said mutations often occur among viruses. But the mutations can be defeated if enough people become vaccinated, according to CNBC. “Viruses don’t mutate unless they replicate,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, according to CNN. “And if you can suppress that by a very good vaccine campaign, then you could actually avoid this deleterious effect that you might get from the mutations,” Fauci said, according to CNN. “Bottom line: We’re paying very close attention to it. There are alternative plans if we ever have to modify the vaccine. That’s not something that is a very onerous thing, we can do that given the platforms we have,” Fauci said, according to CNBC. What the vaccine developers say Pfizer-BioNTech released the results of a new study earlier this week that looked at whether or not their COVID-19 vaccine can defeat the new variant in the United Kingdom. The research — published on bioRxiv — showed “no biologically significant difference in neutralization activity,” as I wrote about for the Deseret News. This means that the COVID-19 variant did not change enough characteristics to evade the vaccine.

  • Romney says impeachment trial is necessary for ‘accountability … truth and justice’
    by Wendy Leonard on January 24, 2021 at 5:40 pm

    Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, questions Antony Blinken during Blinken’s confirmation hearing to be secretary of state before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. | Graeme Jennings, pool via Associated Press SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said an impeachment trial is necessary to hold former President Donald Trump accountable for his alleged conduct postelection and inciting an insurrection. “If we’re going to have unity in our country, it’s important to recognize the need for accountability, for truth and justice,” Romney told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday. He said Trump’s actions involving a call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and actions leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol “call for a trial.” “I think it is pretty clear that over the last year or so, there has been an effort to corrupt the election and it was not by President (Joe) Biden, it was by President Trump,” Romney said. “This is obviously very serious — and an attack on the very foundation of our democracy and it is something that has to be considered and resolved.” An impeachment trial after someone has left office, he said, would be constitutional. “We’re certainly going to have a trial,” Romney said. “It’s pretty clear that the effort is constitutional.” The U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump for a second time on Jan. 13. It will deliver its articles of impeachment to the Senate on Monday. The Senate is set to begin an impeachment trial on Feb. 9. Romney, R-Utah, who was the only Senate Republican who voted to convict Trump in February 2020, said he would hear the prosecution and defense of Trump and “do my best as a Senate juror to apply justice as well as I can understand it.” Romney did not say whether he will vote again to impeach Trump. It would take 67 votes for the Senate to impeach Trump, requiring the votes of all Senate Democrats and at least 17 Republicans. “I believe that what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offense. If not, what is?” Romney said during CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. He also said he hopes people will question the origin of the idea that the election was stolen from Trump. “History will provide a measure of judgment with regards to those that continue to spread the lie that the president began with,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash. “The reality of this is that this is something that was made up.” Romney said Trump “will continue to have influence” within the GOP, but he said he thinks the party will “return to some of our more fundamental principles,” which are: fiscal responsibility, believing in the importance of character and standing with U.S. allies against authoritarians. “It’s important to recognize a new strain in our party that is critical,” Romney said. “And that is to communicate more effectively to working men and women that our policies are best designed to help them and give them and their families a better future.”

  • Even if your candidate lost the election, you can make a difference
    by Michelle Lehnardt on January 24, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    Volunteer Kate Twohig carries food to the doorstep of a family of six in Logan on Thursday, June 11, 2020. Nonprofits, state and local government and churches teamed up to assist refugees in northern Utah who work at a meatpacking plant in Hyrum, Cache County, and tested positive for COVID-19. | Laura Seitz, Deseret NewsWin or lose, our community engagement should not end with the election. I voted for John McCain in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012 and Evan McMullin in 2016. Nice record, right? Goodness, I know what it’s like to sit on the losing side with a battered yard sign and fears about the destruction the other candidate will wreak upon our nation. Nonetheless, I’ve learned even when your candidate loses, there’s still so much good you can do. And you can be even more effective when you collaborate with those whom you might disagree with politically. If you’re worried about religious freedom, higher taxes, the rise of socialism, the rights of the unborn, first and second amendment rights, you still have a tremendous amount of power. You can work for the causes you believe in on a local level and affect policy nationally. Look, you and I might disagree on politics, but we probably share many of the same values. You love your family. You cuddle babies. You take dinners to your sick neighbor and work on school carnivals and rake lawns for the elderly. You cherish freedom; you work hard and you like things to be fair. Here’s the truth: most people share the same values; we simply prioritize them differently. And that’s a good thing. I’m often amazed at the many good causes my friends pursue: protecting vulnerable children, Special Olympics, collecting surplus vegetables for the food bank, providing prenatal care in Uganda, tutoring struggling math students, etc. No one can do it all, and we need people who feel strongly about varied issues. Unsurprisingly, our key values affect our vote. We vote for the candidate who prioritizes issues we care about the most. Consequently, when our candidate loses, it’s easy to build up fear around the causes we value most. Over the last four years, I learned one person can do more for the causes they value than I ever imagined possible. My voting record may not resemble yours; we may work for different purposes. Still, we both have tremendous ability to do good in the world. When Trump won the election in 2016, my family felt discouraged. While we knew we would be fine, we worried about our refugee friends from Rwanda; we worried about our immigrant friends. We worried about the example of a president who used name-calling, ridicule, and cruel words to describe anyone who disagreed with him. Even during Trump’s campaign racial and religious motivated bullying skyrocketed in our public schools. Kids were flashing swastikas in hallways, threatening Hispanic kids with “the wall,” and using racial epithets freely. The day after the election, we sat down as a family and my oldest son said, “We can complain, or we can make it better. And if we really believe people need protection, we have a responsibility to help.” So, we helped. We tutored our Rwandan friends in math and reading. Working with our school principal, I created Holocaust awareness and anti-bullying assemblies. Republican or Democrat — no one likes bullying in schools. We wrote to congressmen, made phone calls and even helped with hate crime legislation. When need arose, I built websites, created videos and ran social media campaigns. We did not work tirelessly. In fact, we just put in a bit here and there. Still, at the end of four years, our efforts made a difference. The wheels of government turn slowly. And while lawmakers are debating, you can get so much work done on the ground with the power of your convictions and just a few hours of time. Even in Utah, where Republicans claim a supermajority in our House of Representatives, very few laws get passed without agreement from the majority of Democrats. At the end of the day (or the legislative session), reasonable voices from both sides come together and create laws benefiting the majority of Utahns. I too, am wary of too much Democratic power in Washington, D.C. Still, I have faith in the processes of our government. At the end of the day, reasonable voices will come together and create laws benefiting the majority of Americans. In the meantime, I’ll get to work on the ground. During campaign season I asserted I didn’t mind voting for a pro-choice president, because abortions decrease when a Democrat is in the White House. I’m going to make sure that’s true by supporting pro-life programs. I’m looking for ways to work with people on both sides of the aisle to increase education, support young mothers and make sure every child is wanted, well-cared for and loved. If I help one mother, one baby, I’ll make a tremendous difference. Bottom line, even if your candidate lost the election, you haven’t lost your ability to contribute to your community, and you shouldn’t lose hope. You can make your voice heard; you can cultivate better outcomes. When we work together, we can increase peace in our families and communities, combine our resources, and create real change in the world. Michelle Lehnardt is a mother of six, writer, photographer, one of the founders of MWEG and Women of Faith Speak Up and Speak Out and sits on the board of the Anti-Defamation League.