The Spring 2021 Semester is now in full swing at Southern Utah University, and with the return of students to campus, so too comes the return of weekly COVID-19 case reporting by the school.
From Jan. 7-13, 85 members of the campus community — composed of SUU students, faculty and staff — informed the school that they had tested positive for COVID-19.
Since reporting resumed after the holiday break on Dec. 31, 127 people have informed the school of a positive test. After the first two weeks of reporting at the start of the fall semester, only 13 cases had been reported.
In total, 515 cases were self-reported on the COVID-19 Case Count page during the fall semester. Of the state’s seven largest universities, SUU had the second-lowest number of cases behind the 476 reported at Weber State University.
Provost Jon Anderson emailed students before the start of the semester to encourage them to complete their mandatory rapid antigen test by the end of the first week of classes.
Students who were tested weekly or biweekly as originally instructed in Gov. Gary Herbert’s executive order will now receive one mandated test at the start of the semester. After that first test, asymptomatic students will be randomly selected for testing to measure the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
All members of the campus community can schedule an appointment to be tested at the J. Reuben Clark Jr. Center (formerly known as the Alumni House) at any time if they notice they are developing COVID-19 symptoms, including a fever, cough and/or the loss of taste or smell.
SUU’s approach to instruction is largely the same as it was in the fall: a steady mix of hybrid, asynchronous and synchronous online, and in-person courses.
The Southwest Utah Public Health Department reported 42 new cases of COVID-19 in Iron County on Friday. There are currently 1,778 active cases in the county according to SWUPHD, and 359 residents have tested positive over the last seven days.
A new Iron County fatality has been reported each of the last three days: one on Tuesday, a care center resident over 85 years old, one on Wednesday, a woman between 65-84 who was not hospitalized, and one on Thursday, a male between 65-84 who was hospitalized at the time of death.
In total, 19 Iron County residents have died from COVID-19, according to SWUPHD.
On Wednesday, SWUPHD announced via their Twitter account that people over the age of 70 can register for the COVID-19 vaccination program beginning on Jan. 18.
The Utah Department of Health said Friday that the so-called “UK variant” of COVID-19 — a fast-moving and more contagious version of the coronavirus — has arrived in Utah.
“We fully anticipated we would find this strain in Utah,” state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said in a statement. “We know this strain is more transmissible than previous COVID-19 variants, and our hospitals continue to operate near or over capacity. So now more than ever, Utah residents need to wear masks, practice physical distancing, and avoid large gatherings.”
The variant was first discovered in the United Kingdom in October and has become the dominant strain of the COVID-19 outbreak there, NPR reported Wednesday. The variant, according to studies, increases the transmissibility of the virus by about 50%, but is not more deadly.
The University Journal will continue its COVID-19 coverage during the spring semester, though updates will not be posted daily as they were during the fall.
Instead of covering the pandemic on a more broad scale, the University Journal’s coverage will focus on the state of the pandemic at Southern Utah University and in Iron County and will be updated each Thursday alongside the SUU COVID-19 Case Count page.
Consider supporting local journalism by reading daily updates from The St. George Spectrum, The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: Christopher Dimond