Data mix-up means Utah didn’t hit 70% COVID-19 vaccination goal after all; state sees 1,238 weekend cases

Doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine await recipients at the Central Davis Senior Activity Center in Kaysville on July 6, 2021. A data mix-up means Utah didn’t hit its 70% vaccination goal by July 4 after all, health officials said Monday. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — State health officials said they misinterpreted some vaccination data from the federal government, which means that only about 67% of Utah adults have at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine instead of the 70% that was previously reported.

The error means that Utah didn’t hit Gov. Spencer Cox’s goal of getting at least 70% of adults in the state vaccinated with at least one dose by July 4 after all.

“We screwed up. And I sincerely apologize,” Cox wrote in a letter addressed to Utahns on Monday.

Monday, the Utah Department of Health reported 1,238 new COVID-19 cases from over the weekend — 495 on Friday, 486 on Saturday and 264 on Sunday.

Utah’s rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 447, according to the health department. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the “people over people” method is now 12.3%. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the “test over test” method is now 8.2%.

The vaccination data discrepancy comes from vaccines that have been administered in Utah by federal government agencies such as the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Services.

Those administered doses are reported through a data system called Tiberius, which is different from the state of Utah’s data system. Data from Tiberius isn’t automatically fed into the state’s vaccination data system, so health officials must manually interpret it.

Health officials interpreted about 30,000 doses reported through Tiberius as new doses, but they’re actually cumulative doses, the health department said in a statement Monday. Some single doses were therefore counted multiple times.

“It is disappointing to discover we did not reach our goal of vaccinating 70% of adults with at least one dose by July 4. And we regret that inaccurate information was relayed to Gov. Cox and the people of Utah,” the health department’s statement said. “But we remain steadfast in our commitment to presenting data accurately, transparently and with integrity.”

There were 29,880 doses reported in Tiberius, health officials said. Combined with the state’s totals, 1,525,632 Utahns age 18 and older have received at least a first vaccine dose. Dividing that total by Utah’s 2019 adult population of 2,274,774 shows that 67.07% of Utah adults have at least a first dose as of Monday, not 70.2% that was reported last week, according to the health department.

A total of 1,607,690 Utahns, or about 50.1% of the state population, have now received at least a first vaccine dose, according to the health department. A total of 1,433,575 Utahns, about 44.7% of the population, are now fully vaccinated. Among Utahns age 12 and older, who are currently eligible for the vaccines, about 62% have received at least a first dose, and 55.3% are fully vaccinated, the health department reported Monday.

The state’s data team told the governor’s office that the 70% goal had been reached, and they were “surprised and excited and a little skeptical,” Cox wrote in the letter. His office waited a few days while the numbers were double- and triple-checked for accuracy before releasing the news.

But a few days later, state leaders discovered that there was an error in the way the federal doses had been counted.

“While federal data sharing has been extremely difficult, this one is on us. Our data team is devastated and embarrassed. And so am I,” Cox wrote.

He added that the mistake appears to be a result of simple human error and there was no evidence of any ethical breaches in the mix-up.

“Our data team at the department of health has been incredible throughout this pandemic. At times working around the clock, these public servants have been recognized as one of the most thorough and transparent data teams in the country. While this miscalculation is inexcusable, they have reexamined processes to prevent this type of error from happening again,” Cox said.

Utah Senate President J. Stuart Adams tweeted his appreciation for Cox’s apology on Monday.

“I appreciate (Gov. Cox’s) transparency and dedication to sharing accurate information,” Adams said.

While the data mix-up is an unfortunate speed bump in the state’s efforts to push vaccines as much as possible, state leaders have said the 70% goal is somewhat arbitrary. Cox added that it means state leaders have even more work to do to get more Utahns vaccinated.

“We will continue to do everything possible to make vaccinations easier and more accessible,” Cox’s letter said.

There are now 220 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Utah, including 93 in intensive care, state data shows. About 73% of all intensive care unit beds in Utah are now occupied, including about 75% of beds in the state’s 16 referral hospitals. About 56% of non-ICU hospital beds in Utah hospitals are now occupied.

The six deaths reported Monday were:

  • A Davis County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was not hospitalized when he died
  • A Tooele County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when she died
  • A Utah County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when she died
  • Two Washington County men who were between the ages of 65 and 84 and were hospitalized when they died
  • A Weber County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when she died

Of the 2,834,431 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 14.8% have tested positive for COVID-19. The number of total tests conducted in Utah since the pandemic began is now at 5,171,309, up 14,294 since Friday, health officials reported. Of those, 8,835 were tests of people who hadn’t previously been tested for COVID-19.

Monday’s totals give Utah 420,214 total confirmed cases, with 17,820 total hospitalizations and 2,399 total deaths from the disease. Seven COVID-19 cases were removed from case counts on previous days through data analytics, according to the health department.

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