Southern Utah University reported that another eight people had informed the school of a positive COVID-19 test, and Gov. Gary Herbert announced a record single-day increase of 1,198 new cases in a press conference on Thursday.
The previous highest one-day case count was 1,117 reported last Friday by the Utah Department of Health.
Cases in Iron County have remained low in comparison to the rest of the state. The Southwest Utah Public Health Department reported five new cases in the county and 36 in the surrounding areas.
Since SUU began updating its COVID-19 case count page on Aug. 27, 34 people among the pool of students, faculty and staff on campus received a positive test for the coronavirus.
As cases across the state continue to spike, the positive test rate and hospitalizations continue to rise as well. An average of 153 patients have been receiving care in Utah hospitals over the last week, and there are currently 188 patients hospitalized.
Herbert said he is concerned about the effect the spike will have on healthcare workers.
No new deaths were announced Thursday, and the state’s death toll remains at 444.
“People are tired and exhausted, and it wears on them,” he said at his televised news conference with PBS Utah.
Utah County tallied another 568 cases as numbers continue to skyrocket in and around Brigham Young University. On Tuesday BYU reported 1,104 cases of COVID-19 since they resumed in-person classes.
Earlier this week, the presidents of BYU and Utah Valley University wrote a strongly worded letter threatening to close their campuses for the rest of the semester if students keep refusing to follow health guidelines.
Herbert praised the presidents for sending the letter and criticized students who have “pushed back on their leadership, I think inappropriately, by the way.” Reports of underground dance parties in Utah County have set Utah’s progress back in combatting the pandemic.
Utah’s seven-day rolling average of new positive test results per day stands at 916, setting another record.
The governor mandated that Utah County move from the ‘yellow’ risk level to ‘orange’ earlier this week. Herbert warned that stronger restrictions might come in Utah County if cases continue to surge, but he continued to dismiss the idea of taking stronger action statewide through a mask mandate, arguing that such a measure “doesn’t make a lot of sense” in rural areas.
“We’ve been consistent on saying if there’s a need for those kind of strict measures, we look to the local government people who know what’s best, know the demographics, know the culture, know the situation as well as anybody if not better than anybody to make those kinds of decisions,” he said.
Since late August, the rate of new cases among patients ages 15 to 24 has more than tripled, from 98 new cases per day to 345 new cases per day as of Thursday.
As the state continues to see a surge in cases, Herbert encouraged Utahns to take precautions to stop the spread of the virus and noted that everyone will have to make sacrifices until a vaccine is developed.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo courtesy of Office of Marketing Communication, Southern Utah University