HEALTH

Intermountain doctor: Get vaccinated to slow the spread of COVID-19 variant in schools

Jul 30, 2021, 2:21 PM | Updated: 5:37 pm
Vaccine mandates...
(Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — If we want to slow the spread of the new Delta variant of COVID-19, we need to encourage our friends and families to get vaccinated, because if we don’t, the evolved virus will most certainly spread throughout schools this fall, according to an infectious disease expert at Intermountain Healthcare. 

Dr. Eddie Stenehjem said Friday most of the new cases of COVID-19 in Utah still occur in unvaccinated people. 

“This isn’t rocket science,” he said in a news conference. “The lower the vaccine rate, the higher the number of cases.” 

Vaccine prevents spread in school 

To Stenehjem, if people don’t get vaccinated, it’s going to be a real problem once kids head back to school. 

“If we have children that are unvaccinated, not previously infected, coming into a classroom with other susceptible children with a very, very transmissible virus, you’re going to see this virus transmit in schools,” highlighted Stenehjem. “Then those children are going to take the virus back to their homes and transmit to susceptible parents and susceptible grandparents.” 

Districts have already dealt with closing schools previously when a COVID-19 outbreak occurred. And if kids aren’t vaccinated, Stenehjem noted history will repeat itself–perhaps more severely. 

“We know that if you put 30 people into an enclosed room that you’re going to get transmission,” he said. “This is a different virus than we were dealing with before. So those measures of spacing a desk three feet, increasing air circulation, good focus on hand hygiene by themselves… I’m skeptical those are going to work.”

Even if someone cannot get vaccinated, there is one measure known to protect unvaccinated folks against the virus: masks.

“We know that masking works,” Stenehjem emphasized, adding if he had school-aged children, he’d make sure they wore a mask when they head back to the classroom. 

Allaying fears, understanding frustration

In order to combat the spread of the Delta variant, which CDC research indicates could be as contagious as chickenpox, Stenehjem says the best tool at our disposable is vaccination. The best way to get people to utilize that tool, according to Stenehjem, is to encourage doctors, nurses, community groups, churches, companies and just regular people to keep educating their friends, family and peers about the benefits of being vaccinated. 

“We want people to know this vaccine saves lives. It prevents hospitalizations and it is safe,” he added. “Those conversations need to be had all over our community — in churches, in doctors’ offices, wherever it might be.” 

Additionally, Stenehjem understands some people are hesitant about the vaccine, but those individuals are more likely to listen to the people they trust in their lives. 

“I hear people say, ‘These are new vaccines and haven’t been studied.’ I would push back on that — I can’t think of a vaccine that is more heavily scrutinized than this vaccine,” he said. 

Stenehjem said he understands the frustration over the changing guidelines, but he points out as we learn more, we will continue to adjust. 

“It can be frustrating, to go back and forth,” he said. “I recognize this is hard for the general public, but we are doing the best we can . . . and I guarantee there will be more changes.” 

Read more: 


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

      • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
      • Don’t touch your face.
      • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others per CDC recommendations.
      • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet).
      • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities).
      • Obtain a flu shot.
      • Seek out the COVID-19 vaccine.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Health

A new study finds that reports of bad weather and air actually decrease ridership on the UTA....
Devin Oldroyd

Relief from inversion and poor air quality may be in Utah’s near future

The Beehive State is in the middle of some thick inversion and poor air quality, but relief may be on the way according to the National Weather Service.
3 days ago
A study by Intermountain Health that spanned 40 years and sought answers about the health of people...
Simone Seikaly

Intermountain’s 40-year study provides insight into weight-loss surgery

In some cases the results from the weight-loss surgery study were expected. But at least one result could be a cause for alarm and caution.
3 days ago
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service has issued a recall for mil...
Simone Seikaly

Check your pantry, a Conagra canned meat recall may affect you

Millions of pounds of canned meat and poultry products (mainly Vienna sausages) are involved in the Conagra recall.
3 days ago
Two temporary federal pandemic emergency assistance programs are coming to an end in the coming mon...
Waverly Golden

As two federal pandemic emergency-assistance programs near an end, Cox has solutions

Two temporary federal pandemic emergency assistance programs are coming to an end in the coming months due to more job opportunities.
3 days ago
FILE - A doctor loads a dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at ...
Aimee Cobabe

Bill banning vaccine passports heading to Utah Senate

A bill to ban vaccine passports is heading out of the Utah House and into the Utah Senate. The bill is similar to a failed bill from 2022.
7 days ago
A bill on transgender healthcare — banning transgender-related surgeries and puberty blockers for...
Eliza Pace, KSL TV and Aimee Cobabe, KSL NewsRadio

Utah Senate approves changes to transgender care bill, passes on to Gov. Cox

SB16 bans gender-confirming surgeries for minors and also places a moratorium on puberty blockers for minors.
10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Intermountain doctor: Get vaccinated to slow the spread of COVID-19 variant in schools