Students at Southern Utah University have returned to campus for the final stretch of the 2020-21 academic year after spring break, and, despite the potential danger of many students traveling for the break, the number of new cases of COVID-19 reported at SUU has remained steady.
From Feb. 25 to March 3, only six new cases were reported on the university’s COVID-19 Case Count page — the lowest number reported in a single week since Oct. 1-7.
A week later, from March 4-10, the university announced 21 new cases on campus and two off campus, a figure nearly identical to what was reported during the three weeks before spring break.
SUU’s COVID-19 task force reminded students before the break in an email that, “Travel increases the chance you may be exposed to or spread COVID-19 and it’s up to each of us to be diligent and keep our SUU community safe when returning to campus.” So far, no spike in cases has surfaced.
Since case reporting resumed at SUU after the holiday break on Dec. 31, 265 students and members of the faculty and staff have reported new infections. In total, 780 members of the campus community have self-reported receiving a positive test to the school since the pandemic began.
Over the last five weeks, no more than 23 cases have been reported in a single seven-day period — a stark contrast to the 11 weeks before when new cases on campus per week never dipped below 32.
Vice President of Student Affairs Jared Tippets admonished students to be tested upon returning to campus in an email sent to the student body on Monday. In that email, Tippets explained that students who get tested “will receive a voucher for a free meal at Thunderbird Cafe, Chick-fil-A, Papa Johns or BRKFST & Co.” as a “way of saying ‘Thank you’ for doing your part in keeping SUU healthy and safe.”
Testing for asymptomatic students is available in the Sharwan Smith Student Center Ballroom on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19 can sign up to be tested at the J. Reuben Clark Center (formerly known as the Alumni House) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-noon.
In Iron County, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department announced three new cases Friday. There were two new fatalities reported in the county in the last two weeks: a male between the ages of 65-84 who was hospitalized at the time of death on March 1, and a female 65-85 who was also hospitalized that was reported Thursday.
Over the last seven days, SWUPHD has reported 14 new cases per day on average — a slight uptick from the 12.3 new cases per day before the break.
Since the pandemic began, 33 Iron County residents have died from COVID-19. The Utah Department of Health announced that the state had surpassed 2,000 deaths from the disease on Thursday.
Iron County has been downgraded to the “Moderate” transmission level by UDOH, meaning informal gatherings of up to 25 people are now permissible in the area.
Anyone over the age of 50 can now sign up to be vaccinated throughout the state. Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson said in a news conference on Thursday that the one millionth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Utah should be administered in the next few days.
Gov. Spencer Cox announced that his administration plans to lift the statewide mask mandate on April 10 at that same news conference.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: Mitchell Quartz