Utah County currently has the highest number of COVID cases in the state-despite making up only 20% of the population.
After a weekend of record setting COVID cases, Utah County has a 23% positivity rate, which means nearly one in four COVID tests are positive. As a result, Provo and Orem cities have both moved back to the orange phase of restrictions. State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said cases have mainly risen among 15-24 year olds, but she said there is still risk to other populations.
“What we're starting to see is that spread into older populations that are at a higher risk of hospitalization and that's why our hospitalization numbers are going up,” said Dunn in a Tuesday press conference.
After hours activities are the main contributing factor behind the spike, according to Aislynn Tolman-Hill of the Utah County Public Health Department.
“When we say after hours, we're really talking about after school hours after business hours," said Tolman-Hill. "Those types of events, the family, social, sporting events, just any type of events where people might not be really kind of watching all of the physical and social distancing guidelines.”
Tolman-Hill said another driver is the fact that two large universities have returned to in-person instruction. On the university responses, she said they have been doing a good job working with students to push social distancing and good hygiene practices.
The presidents of BYU and UVU issued a joint statement Tuesday saying they would take dramatic action if circumstances do not improve. That could mean a two-week quarantine, closing campuses to the public or moving to all-remote instruction for the rest of the semester.