SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah Health doctors predict a rise in COVID-19 cases in Utah after a steady decline since January. It comes as the state nears the two million mark of vaccines administered.

At the Salt Palace, Bobby Hansen and Shalyse Olney came for their final vaccination dose Tuesday.

The friends are among the 51 percent of Utahns over the age of 16 who have received at least one dose.

“I want to hug people again. I miss my family and friends and I’m ready to be back to this normal world,” said Olney.

Yet, University of Utah physicians believe COVID cases will increase state-wide in the coming weeks.

“This virus really is opportunistic,” University of Utah Health strategic engagement manager Erin Clouse said.

Already, Weber, Morgan, Davis and Wasatch counties are seeing small outbreaks.

“It’s a concern when we see it in a few counties -- it means there is a bit of an outbreak in relation to the rest of the state,” University of Utah Health chief medical operations officer Dr. Russell Vinik said.

Vinik said 40 percent of positive tests trace back to the highly-contagious UK variant in Utah.

“Viruses can spread quicker than our ability to vaccinate people. I do expect the cases to go up because the virus is spreading and mutating,” Vinik said.

Nationally, Utah ranks 18th when it comes to new cases and test positivity, and 15th in new COVID-19 deaths, according to the latest data from the CDC.

So what can be done? Doctors echo what they’ve always said: still wear a mask, socially distance and get vaccinated.

“I feel more confident, obviously in myself, but also I know that I’m not impacting others around me or those I care about,” said Olney.

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