Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced on Thursday that six counties are moving from a high to moderate transmission level on the state COVID-19 Transmission Index, but Utah County is not one of them.

The counties moving from high to moderate are: Salt Lake, Sanpete, Wasatch, Davis, Cache and Grand counties.

The classification is based on case rates, positivity rates and ICU utilization in each county, according to a description of the transmission index. The 11 counties that are still classified as high include Utah, Tooele, Uintah and Summit counties.

Daggett, Millard, Piute, Rich and Wayne counties are all classified as having a low level of transmission.

“This is really incredible progress, and it means that now 2.2 million Utahns live in moderate transmission counties,” Cox said during a press conference on Thursday.

The governor noted that, in the moderate phase, there are no restrictions on the number of people in gatherings “so long as they are wearing masks.”

“And that’s great news for our economy, and it’s great news for the citizens of the state of Utah,” he said.

According to Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, this week’s seven-day rolling case average is 558, a decrease from last week’s average of 723.

Also on Thursday, Cox announced that, starting on Monday, everyone in Utah ages 50 and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as those who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, a body mass index or 30 or higher, or with chronic kidney disease.

“If we continue to get the vaccines that we think we’re going to get, and we continue to move through and we’re able to vaccinate this category, we anticipate and hope that by April, the beginning of April, we’ll be able to open up eligibility to every adult in the state of Utah,” the governor said. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”

The announcement came a day after Utah received 23,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which Cox said health officials would begin administering on Thursday.

“This is an important vaccine, not only because it prevents hospitalization and death, but because it gets the job done in one shot. And that’s just critical for so many in our population,” Cox said.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson spoke about a new “COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Roadmap” that “gives guidelines for providers to ensure the vaccines are administered equitably throughout the state, especially among those who are most vulnerable.”

Henderson, who called vaccine distribution “the most important thing that our administration has been working on this year,” said the goal of the road map is “to build an inclusive vaccine strategy to make sure our vaccination rates actually reflect our population.”

As of Thursday, 785,000 vaccine doses had been administered in Utah, according to Cox.

The state health department reported 611 new COVID-19 cases statewide on Thursday, as well as 12 new deaths.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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