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BYU and UVU issue statement, advise two-week deadline to improve numbers

BYU Police are looking for a suspect after three students say they were shot with a BB gun. (FILE PHOTO, KSL-TV)

UTAH COUNTY — The presidents of both Brigham Young and Utah Valley Universities have issued a statement to students warning that if things don’t change the schools will have to take “dramatic action.”

In the joint letter signed by BYU President Kevin J. Worthen and UVU President Astrid S. Tuminez, the officials said they have been grateful to have been able to open their campuses to returning students this year. But they also say the recent spike in COVID-19 cases across Utah County among college-aged students is concerning.

“This is both alarming and unacceptable,” the presidents wrote.

Late last week, the state set record numbers in both the amount of new COVID-19 cases and the rise in the percentage of positive tests being issued. They are increases that state leaders say are tied to Utah County’s’ college population.

“Since last Friday, 39% of all new cases have come from Utah County, this despite the fact that Utah County’s population represents just 20% of the state’s population,” state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said last week noting a majority of those cases were among those aged 14-29.

This week, Dr. Dunn said Utah County makes up the majority of the state’s increase in cases. And though it accounts for 10% of the state’s population, the case rate for COVID-19 in Utah County is 5.4x greater than the rest of the state

On Tuesday, this increase led Utah Department of Health Executive Director Rich Saunders to issue a public health order moving both the cities of Provo and Orem to the ‘Orange’ threat level.

“Behavior must change,” Worthen and Tuminez told students.

We implore you to stay home except for in-person classes, work, church, and other essentials. We ask that you limit your social interactions to only those within your household and avoid small gatherings where individuals aren’t wearing masks or maintaining physical distance. If you’re feeling sick, stay home. If you’ve had a known exposure to the virus, may test positive for the virus or are awaiting a test result, follow the quarantine guidelines of state and local health officials. We expect you to follow all safety requirements on campus and all state and local mandates off campus,” Worthen and Tuminez said. 

If circumstances do not improve within the next two weeks, more dramatic action will be necessary. This may include a two-week quarantine, closing campuses to the public, or a complete retreat to all-remote instruction for the rest of the semester.

“Please be wise. Your individual choices will make all the difference.”

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States