For the fourth consecutive week, Southern Utah University set a record for new COVID-19 cases among the campus community in a single week with 73 new cases reported Thursday.
Since Nov. 5, 138 cases have been reported. SUU originally reported 53 cases from Nov. 5-11, but the total for the week was updated to 65.
The university began tracking case counts on Aug. 27, and the total number of cases since then stands at 253. 54% of the total cases have been reported in the last two weeks. 76% have been reported in the last month.
Of the 73 cases reported from Nov. 12-18, 71 were face-to-face students or members of the faculty and staff that work on campus.
SUU began testing students and staff in the Student Center Ballroom Thursday in lieu of Gov. Gary Herbert’s state of emergency announced on Nov. 8. Herbert announced a statewide mask mandate, limits on gathering with people outside of the same household and a plan to test every college student who attends in-person classes.
Herbert announced a new public health order in a news conference Thursday that will do away with the requirement to limit social gatherings the week of Thanksgiving.
“We know that the more people who gather together in an interaction, the closer you have a physical interaction, the longer that that interaction lasts, the more risky that situation becomes in catching or spreading COVID-19,” Herbert said Thursday during his monthly news conference with PBS Utah.
Utah reported 18 new coronavirus deaths Thursday and the second highest single-day record for new cases with 3,968. Thursday was the virus’ deadliest single day. State officials report that the overall death toll now stands at 756.
Two Washington County women, one age 65 to 84 and the other over 85, and two Washington County men, one age 65 to 84 and the other over 85, were among the new fatalities. In the Southwest Utah health district 77 people have died from the virus since the pandemic began.
The Southwest Utah Public Health Department reported the second highest single-day total of new cases in Iron County with 43 new residents receiving positive tests. There are currently 447 active cases in the county, the highest number since the pandemic began.
535 Utahns are currently hospitalized for COVID-19, up 108 from Wednesday. There have been nearly 730 Utahns reported hospitalized in the past week — the most of any seven-day stretch since the pandemic began.
According to state data, the highest hospitalization rates per capita in the state are in Southwest Utah.
In his press conference, Herbert extended advice to Utahns who plan to gather in larger groups anyway, as his order will allow, recommending masks, social distancing and keeping celebrations small.
“Down south, it’s easier to have warmer weather, you can gather outside; but even if you gather inside here in the northern part of the state you ought to have proper ventilation,” Herbert noted. “Turn on the fans. Open the windows. Have circulation of the air that makes it less risky.”
Story and photo by: Connor Sanders