Southern Utah University students have completed the transition to almost entirely remote instruction after Thanksgiving Break, but cases of COVID-19 continue to surface among the campus community as the university reported 43 new infections from Nov. 25 to Dec. 2.
Thursday’s total marks the end of the most infectious month on campus to date. From Nov. 5 to Dec. 2, 280 students, faculty and staff tested positive for the coronavirus. During previous five week periods spanning from Aug. 27 to Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 to Nov. 4, 35 and 70 new cases were reported, respectively.
From Nov. 19-25, SUU reported 90 new cases on campus, setting a new record for a seven-day period.
Statewide, numbers are on the rise again after the rate of new cases took a brief downturn during the Thanksgiving holiday. The Utah Department of Health reported 3,945 new infections Thursday, the sixth highest single-day total in Utah since the pandemic began.
In Iron County, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department announced that 54 more residents tested positive. There are currently 729 active cases of COVID-19 in the county, according to SWUPHD.
Gov. Gary Herbert acknowledged in a news conference Thursday that social gatherings are driving the new surge of cases, but said that he is not considering further measures to prevent them from occurring.
He instead encouraged Utahns to wear masks and continue social distancing. Herbert pointed to the next 45 to 60 days as “critical,” saying, “We’re on the uptick now and we can’t let our guard down.”
A Washington County man aged 65 to 84 was one of the 11 new fatalities the state reported since Wednesday. In total, 917 Utahns have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
UDOH reported a record number of hospitalizations Thursday with 597 patients concurrently admitted in Utah hospitals.
“Transmission is still definitely widespread throughout the state,” state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said at the news conference. “We likely don’t understand the full impact yet of Thanksgiving on Utah.”
New quarantine guidelines allowing those exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine for 10 days instead of 14 announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be adopted by the state, Dunn said. Those who remain asymptomatic and receive a negative test can now exit quarantine after seven days.
Herbert pointed to the beginnings of vaccine distribution on the near horizon as a source of hope for Utahns discouraged by the pandemic, saying, “In the springtime, we’ll be on the road to recovery.”
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: Mitchell Quartz