Southern Utah University reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases Thursday as 35 new positive tests have been recorded within the campus community in the last week.
Students, faculty and staff members informed the school of positive tests using the online self-reporting form from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4. This marks the second consecutive week in which a record number of cases were reported with 15 new cases from Oct. 22-28.
Since the school started publishing COVID-19 cases on Aug. 27, 108 total cases have surfaced on campus. Almost half of the cases have been reported in the last two weeks.
The school made updates to the Weekly Self-Reported COVID-19 Cases page on Thursday. The number of cases is now separated in two columns: on-campus cases and off-campus cases.
On-campus cases represent new infections among students attending face to face and faculty or staff on campus. Off-campus cases include online students, concurrent enrollment students and remote employees.
The page originally listed 15 cases from Oct. 22-28 and 35 cases from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4, but was updated in the afternoon to indicate that there were 26 cases from Oct. 22-28 and 24 from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4.
The Division of Student Affairs emailed all students last week saying that they must report positive COVID-19 tests to the school. If they don’t, they may be in violation of SUU’s Student Code of Conduct.
“We’ve heard that some students believe that the University won’t find out if they don’t report their cases to us,” the email read. “However, anytime someone affiliated with the University tests positive, we receive a report from the local Health Department notifying us.”
The updates to the page may reflect cases that were not reported to the school from Oct. 22-28. The total case numbers were updated for each of the previous weeks as well, but the total number of cases since Aug. 27 is 108 both before and after the changes to the page.
On Wednesday, President Scott L. Wyatt sent an email to the campus community as a reminder to “stay diligent in our efforts, including mask wearing, frequent hand washing, and monitoring for symptoms, as we finish this semester.”
The Utah Department of Health also reported another record setting day. Another 2,807 Utahns tested positive for the disease Thursday, over 500 more than the previous record of about 2,300.
“It’s grim news, and it’s discouraging,” Gov. Gary Herbert said at a Thursday news conference.
The state has averaged 1,943 new positive test results over the last seven days, setting another record high.
Hospitalizations are also continuing to rise. A record 389 Utah patients are concurrently admitted, UDOH reported. More than 500 patients have been admitted in the last week.
“We’ve been warned by our medical professionals, our data scientists [that] this is going to overrun our medical facilities,” Herbert said.
Deaths also continue to rise as seven fatalities have been reported in the state since Wednesday. Utah’s death toll from the disease stands at 632.
Herbert mentioned that he had met with federal health officials over the weekend and expressed optimism that “we’re going to have a vaccine in the next one to two months.”
In Iron County, another 15 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. The county is averaging nine new cases per day over the last week.
There are currently 173 active cases in Iron County according to SWUPHD. The total of active cases is the highest in the county since the pandemic began.
Iron will remain in the “moderate” transmission level, meaning gatherings are limited to 25 people and mask use is “highly recommended” according to state guidelines.
SWUPHD reported 139 new cases across Washington, Iron, Garfield, Kane and Beaver counties, with 118 cases coming from Washington. Dixie Regional Medical Center passed the capacity of its intensive care unit and had to open a surge ICU two weeks ago.
State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said the Halloween parties thrown in parts of the state will likely show an increase in COVID-19 cases in the next week. “We just can’t have these mass gatherings any more,” Dunn said.
The United States eclipsed 100,000 new cases in a day for the first time on Thursday. There were 102,831 new infections in the country, according to data from John Hopkins University.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: Mitchell Quartz