Another 39 members of Southern Utah University’s campus community have tested positive for COVID-19 according to an update to the school’s case count page posted on Thursday.
That total, which includes cases self-reported by students, faculty and staff from Jan. 14-20, is less than half of the 85 new infections reported from Jan. 7-13.
Only two of the cases reported Thursday occurred “off campus,” or among the group of online students, concurrent enrollment students and remote employees who take courses through or work for SUU.
Since SUU started posting case counts again after the break between semesters, 166 members of the campus community have contracted the coronavirus. Along with the 515 who reported receiving a positive test during the Fall 2020 Semester, 681 people with ties to SUU have tested positive for COVID-19.
Of that total, only 19 cases occurred off campus.
At the end of the first two weeks of classes, Friday marks the beginning of a new testing strategy deployed by the Utah Department of Health as explained by SUU Provost Jon Anderson in an email to students on Jan. 5.
“After those first two weeks, we will switch to randomized testing and students will no longer be required to be tested every 14 days,” Anderson said. “Students will be identified through weekly random sampling and will be emailed with additional information.”
As of Friday, members of the campus community can still book appointments for asymptomatic testing via the university’s Testing, Contact Tracing and Quarantine webpage, though it is unclear whether that will continue after the random sampling Anderson described is scheduled to begin next week.
The rapid antigen tests available for asymptomatic people are administered Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Sharwan Smith Student Center Ballroom.
Testing for those displaying symptoms of COVID-19 is available via appointment at the J. Reuben Clark Center (formerly known as the Alumni House).
In Iron County, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department announced two new deaths Friday — a man and a woman between the ages of 65-84. There are 211 new cases of COVID-19 in the Southwest Utah Health District, but the new cases “are not yet divided into counties,” per SWUPHD’s twitter account.
Over the last seven days, there has been an average daily increase of 40.6 new cases in Iron County. Outside of Friday’s fatalities, only one new death was reported in the county in the last week, a female care center resident between the age of 65-84 on Sunday, Jan. 17.
SWUPHD began its vaccination distribution program on Jan. 18, and all vaccination clinics are booked out until Jan. 31, according to the department’s Twitter account. Slots filled quickly and SWUPHD announced in a news release that its website was “overwhelmed due to high demand.”
February clinic reservations will open on Jan. 25 at 9 a.m. at swuhealth.org for all eligible priority groups — residents over age 70, K-12 teachers and first responders.
“Demand is high, so it will take several weeks to schedule and vaccinate this age group,” the department announced on Twitter. “We will also have dedicated clinics for those needing to schedule their second dose.”
Statewide, health officials have now administered more than 200,000 coronavirus immunizations and the number of hospitalizations fell on Friday, according to UDOH.
Another 24 Utahns have died from COVID-19, UDOH announced Friday — bringing the seven-day total to 99. Per the Salt Lake Tribune, the total number of cases in the state is now almost a third of a million, so just over 10% of Utahns have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden promised a faster COVID-19 vaccine rollout this week, vowing to administer 100 million shots during his first 100 days in office — enough to fully vaccinate 50 million Americans.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading epidemiologist, said that 70-80% of Americans, or perhaps less, need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity and sufficient population protection. Biden’s goal would likely mean the brunt of the vaccination effort would extend into the fall.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: Mitchell Quartz