Utah experts say this year’s COVID-19 influx will look a little different

Sep 11, 2023, 7:30 AM | Updated: Oct 23, 2023, 12:18 pm

covid vaccine booster shot...

A Salt Lake County Health Department employee prepares Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — In the last year, COVID-19 has lost a lot of the spotlight it once had, which means as the weather gets colder and the number of COVID-19 cases likely trends upward, the response and the costs associated with the disease may be a little bit different.

Annie George, epidemiology supervisor with the Salt Lake County Health Department, said although COVID-19 tests cost money, they are still important. She said people can go see a medical provider or use a home test.

“It is still important to know for sure what you have … because there are treatment options available,” she said.

However, she said the main message she has is, “If you are sick, please stay home.”

Personal responsibilities

George said COVID-19 helped people take measures that benefited community health, like staying home when they were sick and washing hands. She said at the beginning of the COVID-19 era a lot of other diseases were “practically nonexistent” because people were being so careful about washing their hands and cleaning high-touch surfaces.

George said people should be aware that even if an illness is not very severe to them, it could be severe for a co-worker, or someone the co-worker is in contact with.

It is still best for employers and others to make accommodations for people with COVID-19, or other illnesses, and help them follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for quarantining, George said. When it is necessary for people to come back to work, they have other ways to keep others from getting sick, including wearing masks.

Dr. Leisha Nolen, Utah’s state epidemiologist, said the CDC recommendations for COVID-19 have not changed, and people should treat it the same as they have before. That guidance includes wearing a mask if you are exposed to COVID-19, isolating for five days after a positive test and wearing a mask for five days after ending that quarantine, and testing six days after being exposed.

George said the CDC has announced it will be coming out with new COVID-19 guidelines, but it has not said when those will be released.

Disease surveillance

One of the other differences as the COVID-19 pandemic moves toward its fourth year is how the surveillance is done at the county, and how it is reported.

George said now the main thing they consider to determine whether COVID-19 is becoming an issue is syndromic surveillance — or how many visits to emergency departments and urgent care facilities report patients with COVID-19 symptoms. She also said increases in Utah usually trail other cities on the coasts. Regardless of testing, she said this method is a way the health department can continue to track.

George said they also still watch hospitalizations, but it is a “lagging indicator” that gives more information about severity.

She said the Salt Lake County Health Department has a grant that is allowing it to track data for RSV, COVID-19 and flu and it will soon be replacing its COVID-19 information with a website that shows syndromic surveillance and hospitalization data for all three viruses.

“We’re really gearing it toward more … simplified information so that the general public can understand,” she said.

Vaccines will also have a price tag

When the new vaccine becomes available, likely sometime in October, it won’t just be handed out to anyone like the previous COVID-19 vaccines — it will come with a price tag. Cindy Wynette, COVID-19 immunization program manager with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, said that price will most often be covered by insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid.

She said there will also be some programs that will offer the vaccine to people with no insurance or whose plans do not cover the vaccine. She suggested going to local health departments, community health centers and some Walgreen and CVS pharmacies for the vaccine.

The bivalent vaccine is still available free of charge for anyone, until the new vaccine becomes available. Wynette said people who have not gotten the bivalent vaccine should consider getting it since it addresses the current omicron subvariant and initial studies show it also provides protection from the eris variant that is currently rising in the U.S.

Both Wynette and George said people who are immunocompromised could talk to their doctors and consider getting a bivalent booster dose now or wait until the fall vaccine becomes available.

George said the county health department strongly advocates vaccines, for COVID-19, the flu and RSV, for those they are approved for.

She said when the new COVID-19 vaccine is available in the next month, the health department “would strongly suggest everyone” receive the vaccine.

She said research into the RSV vaccine helped companies create the COVID-19 vaccines more quickly. The RSV vaccine is still waiting on some approval from insurance companies, but it will also be available soon.

Rich Lakin, immunization director with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, said it is already available in some places with a prescription from a doctor until it is generally approved by Utah’s physician board and available without a prescription, which he said is expected at the end of September.

George said vaccines for RSV are especially important because there are no treatments for it like there are for COVID-19 and the flu so vaccination is the best tool to prevent the spread of RSV. She said the vaccine is approved for people over 60 and pregnant women.



We want to hear from you.

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


Image shows a person receiving a measles vaccine, Based on national behavior, measles cases are lik...

Allessandra Harris Gurr

Measles cases likely to pop up in Utah this year, health official says

Measles cases haven't made it to Utah yet but health professionals advise getting vaccinated and watching for symptoms.

2 hours ago

Marijuana plants grow in a facility in Tooele, Uah....

Heather Peterson

Medical marijuana card numbers spike in Utah

Utah has had a large spike in the number of medical marijuana cards issued to patients over the last few years.

5 hours ago

vape addiction vaping marijuana...

Amie Schaeffer

Talking to teens about marijuana misuse

Gray Matters Utah talks about having conversations with teenagers about marijuana misuse.

6 hours ago


Michelle Lee

Find greater happiness through joy-filled connections

Let’s Get Moving Host Maria Shilaos spoke with Clinical Psychologist Dr. Carla Manly to learn how we can boost happiness through connections.

1 day ago

The Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah.A Utah cancer researcher says more study is n...

Don Brinkerhoff and Simone Seikaly

Utah cancer researcher says new accelerated aging study needs more examination

A new study says accelerated aging may be linked to early-onset cancer, but a Utah cancer researcher says more investigation is needed.

2 days ago

It's Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Intermountain wants parents to know how to deal with the str...

Devin Oldroyd

How to handle new baby stress

Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital gives advice on how parents can prepare to handle the challenges of caring for a new baby.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

Utah experts say this year’s COVID-19 influx will look a little different