COVID-19 cases down compared to Fall Semester

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Students wear masks and display green passports on the Healthy Together app to gain entrance into the Harold B. Lee Library. (Sydnee Gonzalez)

BYU and Utah County’s COVID-19 case counts are down compared to the start of Fall Semester.

According to the Utah County Health Department case dashboard, the number of people testing positive in January 2021 is far less than where the county was in September or November of 2020. 

Eighteen days into Fall Semester the total number of cases in Utah County was 507; however, 18 days into Winter Semester the number of cases in Utah County was just 280.

BYU-specific cases are also down after three weeks of Winter Semester. As of Jan. 30 there have been 616 total COVID-19 cases, compared to three weeks into Fall Semester when there were 762.

“Everything we put in place for the Fall Semester has carried forward to the Winter Semester. We continue to encourage students to wear masks, physical distance, wash hands and follow all public health guidance,” said Rosemary Thackeray, BYU assistant to the president for assessment and planning.

While most requirements and guidelines have stayed the same, there have been a few changes put in place between Fall and Winter Semesters in order to slow the spread of the virus.

“New Winter Semester, we offered COVID testing for students returning to the campus. We will continue to do random and focused COVID testing,” Thackeray said.

Students who have an in-person class, blended class or live in on-campus housing were asked to test for COVID-19 within the first 10 days of the semester and can expect randomized testing throughout the semester.

“The randomized testing and process of rigorous testing is the only thing that really has changed between semesters. Maybe it could be a new perception that goes along with it, that if I know I’m going to be tested regularly maybe I’m more vigilant in my own prevention behaviors,” said Carl Hanson, BYU professor and public health department chair.

While new testing procedures are in place, some of the requirements from last semester have also been revamped. Students are encouraged to continually update their Healthy Together app and must use the green passport to gain entry into high-traffic places on campus like the Harold B. Lee Library.

“Students are very responsive to what the university has asked them to do in order to keep campus safe,” Thackeray said.

In spite of negative attention BYU students got during Fall Semester due to high COVID-19 rates in Utah County, faculty has praised students for keeping in line with the guidelines while on campus.

“I commend our students. I really think they are doing a good job. I’m in the classroom. I see what they are doing in terms of mask wearing; I see what they are doing in terms of social distancing in the classroom, and they are doing a good job on campus,” Hanson said.

BYU President Kevin J Worthen also mentioned the good work students have been doing on campus in his recent devotional address.

“Because of your good work last semester, we are ahead, and if we stay ahead — if we finish strong — we can, like the home baseball team, end the game one-half inning early,” Worthen said. 

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