- Associated Press - Thursday, February 25, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah Gov. Spencer Cox doubled down Thursday on his prediction that there will be gatherings without masks by the Fourth of July, contrary to predictions from the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Cox told reporters that he’s feeling optimistic about the nation’s vaccine rollout and expects mass gatherings could be held without masks this summer. His comments contradict predictions from Fauci who said earlier this week that Americans may still be wearing masks outside their homes in 2022.

“I’m not gonna be wearing this on the Fourth of July, and I’m gonna be in a parade somewhere,” Cox said holding a mask during his weekly COVID-19 briefing. “But if I’m wrong then I’ll come here and I’ll admit that I’m wrong and that we’re gonna do something different.”

Cox tweeted on Tuesday that he is “baffled” by pessimism coming from Washington and that he believes “we will be celebrating maskless in large groups” by the Fourth of July.

Cox announced Thursday that Utah residents 16 and older with certain health conditions can make appointments to be vaccinated immediately. The group was initially expected to be able to get vaccinated starting March 1.



Utah experienced a dip in vaccine distribution last week because a shipment of 36,000 Moderna doses was delayed by recent storms. Cox said the state is “rapidly working to make up the decrease.”

Utah has also been approved to get 20,000 doses of the new single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by early next week - pending federal approval of the vaccine, Cox said.

There have been 430,918 people immunized with one dose and 229,526 people immunized with two doses in Utah, according to state data.

More than 369,000 total virus cases have been reported in Utah along with 1,890 known deaths, according to state data.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some - especially older adults and people with existing health problems - it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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Sophia Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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