Two Confirmed COVID-19 Cases at the U So Far

By Ana Luiza Ramos, Editor-in-Chief


There are constantly new developments about the COVID-19 epidemic that has swept the world and saturated the media in recent weeks. In a deluge of information, it can be hard to keep up with what is useful and what impacts daily life the most.

On Monday, March 16, 2020, President Watkins uploaded a video on the University of Utah’s COVID-19 webpage acknowledging these difficult times and thanking students and faculty as well as the University of Utah Health for all that has been done to avoid the spread of the virus and keep people safe.

“The idea in all of our actions is to try to reduce … person-to-person exposure,” said Chris Nelson, Marketing and Communications director of the U.

As of Wednesday morning, at least 5,881 people in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. and three U.S. territories, have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a New York Times database. At least 107 patients with the virus have died.

In Utah, as of March 18, the state reports nearly 50 diagnosed cases, including two members of the U campus community. The Utah Department of Health continues to report on the total number of confirmed cases in the state here.

Restaurants and bars in Utah are no longer allowing clients inside except for take-out orders. Similarly, Dining Services at the U emailed students explaining that all on-campus dining locations will only provide take-out options.

The White House recommended limiting groups to no more than 10, and Salt Lake County has prohibited mass gatherings of over 50 people. All university-sponsored meetings and gatherings of more than 50 people are cancelled for the next eight weeks.

“I keep to myself generally anyways, and tend to be overly cautious anyways with personal hygiene because I work in a lab environment,” said Samuel Smith, a junior studying math and Portuguese and Brazilian studies, in an email. “The biggest step is trying to find ways to help others around me have access to social interaction during a time of social distancing.”

His concern isn’t so much about catching the disease as much as the social distancing and imposed self-isolation. Smith intends to stay at the U housing throughout the semester.

The ever-changing updates page for the U’s coronavirus coverage stated its second case has been confirmed and the individual is a faculty member in human genetics. He is currently hospitalized. The school is doing all they can to inform people who might have had contact with him, and work areas have been promptly cleaned and disinfected.

“We want to slow the spread of this, and we are trying to protect the most vulnerable people out there,” Nelson said. Older people and those with other medical conditions are more likely to succumb to the disease.

The school is working closely with the Salt Lake County Health Department, according to Nelson. The U is also working with the state-wide task force lead by the lieutenant governor’s office to keep up to date with measures against the virus.

The U promptly informed all members of its community after finding out about its first confirmed case on March 14, a staff member and graduate student that had returned from another state. According to the email sent to students and faculty, “the university is working closely with public health officials to support a full and speedy recovery for this individual.”

The email explained that the first case works at the Counseling Center at the Student Services Building. Currently, the Counseling Center is no longer conducting in-person sessions but is working on telemental health services only available to clients who are currently in the state of Utah.

“These are difficult decisions and we understand this is hard for our students, this is hard for our faculty, it’s hard for our staff,” Nelson said. “All services available for students are still available just online … We don’t want anyone to feel like they’ve been left alone and if they do feel that way, we encourage them to contact the university’s counseling center and to talk.”

Students and faculty should check the U’s coronavirus report page for all updates.

Beginning March 18, the campus shuttles will operate on the “Break” schedule. U SafeRide will operate normally.

The U’s libraries will move to reduced hours until further notice. They will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Friday and closed on the weekends.

The Pac-12 has canceled the NCAA basketball tournament and other competitions until further notice.

Performances at Pioneer Theatre Company and Kingsbury Hall are canceled through the remainder of the spring semester.

The Natural History Museum of Utah and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts are closed to the public through March 27.

“For me the biggest change is going to be switching to online classes,” said Smith. “I am not very good at self-motivation and I fear this transition is going to make it difficult for me to truly get anything done to the best of my ability without a serious increase in effort.”


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Editor’s note: Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, tiredness and shortness of breath. These symptoms are believed to occur between two and 14 days after a person is exposed to the disease. If you have these symptoms and have recently come into contact with a person who is known to have COVID-19, or if you have recently traveled to an area with community spread of the disease, you should call your doctor. Areas with community spread of COVID-19 are believed to include China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Seattle. If you do not have a doctor who you visit regularly, please call the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 or the University of Utah Health hotline at 801-587-0712. Do not go to a healthcare facility without first making arrangements to do so.