SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, July 15, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox spoke about subjects including COVID-19 and Utah’s current drought at his monthly news conference Thursday morning.
Among the topics Cox covered were:
Drought and fireworks
Cox pointed out that 98% of Utah is currently in extreme or exceptional drought, and reservoirs are at approximately 58% of normal, down from 59% last week.
“We are completely done with any run off and are relying on our emergency storage across the state,” Cox said. “Twenty six of Utah’s largest 42 reservoirs remain at below 55% of available capacity. As a result, our key messages remain the same as when we declared the state-wide emergency in March. Only water your landscaping twice per week in northern Utah and three times per week in southern Utah. That’s what we are doing at state facilities and we thank those individuals and businesses that are doing the same.”
Cox said officials are encouraging individuals to conserve wherever possible by fixing leaky faucets and sprinklers, prioritizing watering trees over lawns, and only watering in the early morning or evening.
He asked that with Pioneer Day approaching on July 24, Utahns forgo using personal fireworks. He said Utahns heeded the same plea approaching the July 4 weekend; the week of July 4 saw almost half the human-caused wildfires compared with the same week last year.
Last week, Cox said, there were 35 total wildfires, compared with 63 in the same week in 2020. Twenty four of those were human-caused compared with 61 last year.
“People are actually listening and they are taking the measures we need them to take,” Cox said. “We applaud and appreciate Utahns who are recreating safely and we just need to keep this up.”
Cox said above-average precipitation is forecast over the next eight to 10 days.
He said Utah has enough water from a culinary perspective to get through this year, but it is next year officials are concerned about.
“If we have another year like this one, that’s where things get especially dicey,” he said. “We are contemplating longer-term changes and restrictions, that’s where we are working with the legislature.”
“Our number of COVID cases continue to rise and our hospitalizations have risen, they dipped back down and they are climbing again now, so we’re always worried about the hospitalization side of things,” Cox said. He said Thursday’s numbers are likely to be high, as Thursday is the worst day of the week for numbers, and has been throughout the pandemic.
Cox said vaccinations rates have started to climb again. He encouraged the parents or guardians of young people to have them vaccinated as soon as possible so they are fully vaccinated by the time they return to school.
“We just keep pleading and asking people, we know why cases are going up and we know why hospitalizations are going up and we just need more people to get vaccinated,” Cox said. “I promise you the disease is worse that the vaccine, I can’t make it more clear than that.”
He said the state has moved away from mass vaccinations and into “hand-to-hand combat,” where for example medical professionals are having conversations with individuals to address any hesitancy they might have.
“It’s slow going, but every one of those vaccinations is a potential life saved, so we’re going to continue to work, make it easier than ever to get them, and do everything we can to help people make that choice.”