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Confusion over increasing COVID-19 cases in Utah County

School is back in session today for most districts across the state, which has some worried about a potential spike in coronavirus cases following Thanksgiving break. (PHOTO: KSL Newsradio)

UTAH COUNTY — College-age students are receiving blame for the recent spike in coronavirus cases in Utah County. But, secondary schools are also seeing COVID-19 numbers jump since the school year began.

Aislynn Tollman-Hill, a spokeswoman for Utah County Health Department, said it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where students are contracting the virus.

We certainly have a lot of students involved in extracurricular activities,” said Tollman-Hill. “So, not only are they interacting with each other in the school setting, but they also have lots of other activities.”

COVID-19 cases linked to schools 

Brigham Young University (BYU) spokesman Todd Hollingshead issued a statement saying “we believe the COVID cases are being contracted off-campus.

“Because the contract tracing data shows that COVID-19 cases aren’t occurring in classrooms or from on-campus services,” explained Hollingshead. 

When asked to provide the data, Hollingshead said the “information is not publicly available.”

While Tollman-Hill didn’t discount students contracting COVID-19 outside of campus, she did mention no one would want an uptick of infections linked to an institution. 

You wouldn’t necessarily want to have that associated with your own organization,” said Tollman-Hill. ” You know, that could be problematic in some ways,” specifically referring to why some schools are so certain coronavirus wasn’t contracted in their buildings.

Although, one particular dance party in Provo last month is suspected of spreading the virus in Utah County.

Dr. Todd Vento, infectious diseases specialist, spoke on KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic and stated “several positive coronavirus cases have been linked directly to schools.”

Pinpointing where the cases are coming from

Tollman-Hill says they’re unable to pinpoint how students are getting infected. However, the Salt Lake County Health Department has a break down of which schools have positive cases.

I don’t believe that they’re doing contact tracing any differently,” said Tollman-Hill. “But, they might be defining their outbreaks a little bit differently than we are.”

So far, BYU has disciplined 15 students for not following the university’s coronavirus guidelines. Health officials have reiterated social distancing and masks are the best way to protect others from the virus.