Southern Utah University reported that another six people had informed the school of receiving a positive COVID-19 test Thursday, bringing the total number of cases at SUU to 40.
The weekly total is the lowest of any reported by SUU thus far.
It has been four weeks since in-person classes resumed on Sept. 9, and new weekly case numbers have remained in the single digits each week. There’s been an average of eight new cases per week since SUU began tracking case counts online on Aug. 31.
In Iron County, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department reported eight new cases Thursday. SWUPHD reported 50 new cases in the counties under its jurisdiction and a positive test rate of 12% from Sept. 23-28.
At the state level, the virus continues to rage on. The Utah Department of Health reported that another 1,008 Utahns had tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday.
Utah reported a seven-day average of 987 new positive test results per day — far above the state’s goal to keep weeklong averages to fewer than 400 new cases per day, but below Wednesday’s rate of 1,017.
Utah County continues to be a driving force for the statewide increase. Brigham Young University reported 275 active cases of COVID-19 on campus as of Wednesday. In total there have been 1,469 cases since in-person classes began on Aug. 28, or 3.4% of the campus community’s population.
Compared with other universities in the state, SUU’s cumulative total of 40 cases is low. The University of Utah has reported 371 cases since the fall semester began, Utah Valley University has reported 286, and Utah State University has reported 465.
President Scott L. Wyatt and other SUU administrators implemented a number of health safety strategies before students returned for the fall semester. These include requiring students to wear masks when they’re indoors on campus and to sanitize where they sit before and after class.
Wyatt suggested previously that SUU’s residential setting, where students could avoid commuting using public transportation, could create a safer environment for those on campus.
Thursday morning SUU Student Body President Nouman Kante sent an email to all students enrolled in face-to-face classes to encourage them to attend in-person instruction instead of watching remotely. SUU has installed cameras in every classroom and professors are simultaneously teaching students attending via Zoom and in person.
“This solution was put in place to support students who are not able to attend class due to illness, pre-existing medical challenges, COVID-19 quarantine, or for other unique personal reasons,” Kante wrote in the email. “It was not designed to serve as personal convenience, to provide flexibility while traveling, or as an alternate attendance option on days where it’s just easier to remain in the library or stay at home.”
Kante said that he’s, “worried that our lack of attendance may send the wrong message to faculty that we don’t want or feel comfortable attending face-to-face classes and prefer online options only.” He warned that fall attendance could influence whether or not faculty offer their courses in person during the Spring semester.
He also emphasized in the message that students should wear face masks both on and off campus. Kante said that he was hearing that, “some campus offices are considering adjusting their services if we do not consistently wear masks that cover both our mouth and nose.”
The state’s death toll remains at 459 after no new fatalities were reported Thursday.
In total, 3,882 patients have been hospitalized in Utah for COVID-19, up 35 from Wednesday. In the past two weeks, the state has reported 481 hospitalizations for coronavirus — the most of any 14-day stretch since the pandemic began.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: Mitchell Quartz