Slight Uptick in COVID-19 Cases at SUU as 52 New Infections Reported Thursday

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Another 52 members of Southern Utah University’s campus community have tested positive for COVID-19, according to an update to the COVID-19 Case Count page Thursday.

Of those cases, which occurred from Jan. 21-27, 47 happened on campus among the group of students, faculty and staff who self-reported positive tests to the university. Cases fell from 85 to 39 last week, but increased slightly this week.

Since the university resumed case reporting after the holiday break on Dec. 31, 218 new infections have been reported. Only seven of those cases are considered to have occurred off-campus.

Thursday’s total is the second-highest reported during the spring semester and the seventh-highest reported in a single week since the pandemic began.

In total, 733 members of the campus community have informed the school of a positive test result since tracking began on Aug. 31. 

Both the SUU men’s and women’s basketball teams paused activities this week after finding positive tests within their programs. The men were scheduled to travel to Pocatello, Idaho to take on Idaho State University, while the women were set to host the Bengals before cancelling the games.

The university has added a “Randomized Testing” sub-heading to the Testing, Contact Tracing and Quarantine page after Provost Jon Anderson told students in an email on Jan. 5 that, “After those first two weeks [of the semester], we will switch to randomized testing and students will no longer be required to be tested every 14 days.”

The page says randomized testing is “an important part of SUU’s strategy to protect the health of our students while offering safe in-person classes. Results of this testing will help develop a better understanding of the prevalence and spread of the virus including aiding in identification of asymptomatic cases, so mitigation actions can be taken to reduce risks.”

Asymptomatic students can still book appointments for testing in the Student Center Ballroom Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on the Testing, Contact Tracing and Quarantine page. Drive-up symptomatic testing is available at the J. Reuben Clark Center (formerly known as the Alumni House) by appointment Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon.

In Iron County, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department announced 39 new cases on Friday. Over the last seven days, an average of 36.1 have been reported in the county — an decrease compared to 40.6 new cases per day over the previous seven-day period.

One new death was reported in the county last week: a male care center resident between age 65-84. Since the pandemic began, 23 Iron County residents have died from the disease.

SWUPHD apologized for earlier confusion about receiving the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine via Twitter, clarifying that the second dose “should be received through the same organization where you received your first shot, regardless of the brand (Moderna or Pfizer).”

Immunization appointments for priority groups (people age 70 and older, K-12 teachers and first responders) are fully booked, but registration for new clinics will open again on Monday, Feb. 1 after 9 a.m. on SWUPHD’s website.

Statewide, the Utah Department of Health reported the most deaths ever on a single day as 35 new fatalities were announced Friday. 

However, not all those deaths occurred on Thursday. Sixteen should have been reported a day earlier, but UDOH said it ran into a “transmission error.” Six of the newly reported deaths happened before Jan. 1.

There are 1,517 new infections in the state, according to UDOH data. 

Gov. Spencer Cox encouraged Utahns to “upgrade the quality of your masks” in a news conference Thursday in light of reports that the more contagious U.K. variant of COVID-19 is circulating in Utah.

Masks need to fit well by covering both the nose and mouth and offer multiple layers of protection to create an effective barrier, experts said. Double masking, or wearing a surgical-style mask beneath a cloth one, is emerging as an effective way to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: Mitchell Quartz