The state of Utah reported 1,484 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday in what is believed to be a surge following the holidays in 2020.
Along with the announcement of the new case numbers for Monday, four new deaths were announced with two coming from Utah County. The two were a female and male, both ages 45-64.
The Beehive State is now ranked fifth in the nation in terms of cases per 100,000 for the past week, according to the New York Times, and last week also marked the second-biggest increase in COVID-19 cases the state has seen since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Utah County has seen the second-highest total number of COVID-19 cases in the state, only behind Salt Lake County, and officials worry that with local colleges returning to campus this week it could get even worse.
“That would be a concern just based on the sheer numbers, there’s your denominator right there that goes up instantaneously,” said Dr. Todd Vento of Intermountain during a recent press conference. “If you want to talk about the potential for the concept of a super spreader event, you bring 20, 30 or 40,000 people back together who have been traveling, possibly, and now they’re all together again.”
When looking at the case rates broken down by area on the COVID-19 website for the state, Provo and Orem have some of the darkest spots on the map. This means that these areas have some of the highest COVID-19 case rates per 100,000 in the state.
The North Orem area has the worst case rate per 100,000 in the entire state at 17,728.75 per 100,000.
Provo Municipal Council member David Harding looked at the statistics on Friday and calculated that roughly one in every eight people who lives in Provo has been diagnosed with COVID-19 to this point in the pandemic.
“We had been doing better, but our numbers are surging again,” Harding said in a Facebook post. “Wednesday we reported the second-highest daily tally of new cases. Hold on. Be vigilant. Hope is around the corner. Keep yourself and your community safe.”
Along with the rise in COVID-19 cases seen last week, the Utah Department of Health is expanding testing efforts with four new testing locations at Lehi Junior High School, Spanish Fork High School, Vista Heights Middle School and the Lindon Community Center.
All of the four new testing sites will be offering swab rapid antigen tests, a test known to be not as accurate as the traditional PCR testing.
The difference in the two tests was recently outlined in a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which noted that the rapid antigen tests were right 80% of the time for those who are symptomatic and only 41.2% for those who were asymptomatic.
According to a release from the Utah Department of Health, the sites with the rapid antigen tests are chosen based on high positivity rates, low numbers of tests taking place, untreated water sampling and other surveillance data.
Those looking to be tested at one of the new sites with the rapid antigen test can register at https://utah.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=ee341bdc8ea443c0828522d983d98e39/.
While cases have been rising, so have the number of vaccine doses being administered. According to the Utah State Health Department website, over 103,000 vaccines have been administered so far in the state.
COVID-19 vaccines will begin to be administered to teachers starting on Wednesday in Utah County while those 70 years or older are eligible to receive the vaccine starting Jan. 18.
In an interview with the Daily Herald on Friday, Utah County Health Department Public Information Officer Aislynn Tolman-Hill said that the county saw 3,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine come in weekly recently.
As vaccination efforts expand with the local county health departments in the driver’s seat, about 6,000 doses will be needed to inoculate educators in Utah County with more being needed for those over 70 years of age.
The Department of Health is currently vaccinating people at its offices in Provo but the plan is to move to a larger venue that would be capable of inoculating more people with the need for distancing. This move is expected in the coming weeks.
Todd Ripple, owner of Ripple’s Drive-In, 3235 N. Canyon Road, in Provo was a quiet, hard-working man. He could cipher better than any cash register while at the same time be making a strawberry shake and chatting up his customers.
Todd died early Saturday. The sense of loss by his family and the community can be read on family members’ Facebook pages and the Ripple’s Drive-In page.
If you can reach a person’s heart through their stomach, then Todd and his wife, Marilyn McCandless Ripple, have won the hearts of thousands with their juicy burgers and crispy fries, hot dogs and onion rings and myriad shakes and sodas.
For many customers it was Todd Ripple’s signature fresh lime drinks that got them through the heat of summer.
Todd and Marilyn Ripple met and fell in love working at Ripple’s. “We lived together, worked together and raised our kids together for 44 years,” Marilyn Ripple said. “We were always together. He was always by my side.”
The post on the Ripple’s Drive-In Facebook page Monday noted, “It is with a heavy heart we must share that the owner of Ripple’s Drive-In, Todd Ripple, passed away early Saturday morning. He died peacefully spending his time doing what he loved, hiking in the foothills of Provo, where he was born and raised,” the post said.
Todd Ripple was born Aug. 29, 1953, just two years before his parents opened Ripple’s Drive-In. He loved being outdoors, hunting, riding horses and being with friends and family.
“He had such a routine and woke up every day around 6 a.m. and went to the local Day’s Market. He bought hamburger, produce and supplies,” said Marilyn Ripple. “He loved to talk with Tim the produce man and Chuck the butcher. Then he would go to Ripple’s and peel potatoes, hand slice them into fries, hand bread his own onion rings, halibut and mushrooms, patty each burger by hand, and make fry sauce and tartar sauce for the day. He would then go on his morning hike.”
“Todd (and his family) is an Edgemont icon,” said Steve Day, owner of Day’s Market. “He embodied all that it means to be a small business owner. He has been coming to our store each morning since the early ‘80s.”
His daily conversations with Steve and Brock Day, chatting with Tim, the produce manager about the Jazz or BYU; his hunting stories with Chuck, the meat manager; were part of their routine.
“We looked forward to those interactions and will miss Todd dearly,” Steve Day said. “He supported us by buying his ground beef, produce, etc. here and we loved to support his business. No better burger and that fresh lime always hits the spot.”
According to Brad Ripple, a son, Todd went on the same hike every day for years. Then he would go back to Ripple’s and open up for the day.
“In his younger years he was an avid runner and would run 5 miles a day before he headed up to work,” Scott Ripple, another son, said. “He loved hunting, fishing, and anything that had to do with the outdoors. He and his brothers Ty and Paul would ride through the Provo foothills on horses as young men.”
Not only did he hunt in the area, but had occasion to go on safari in Africa. Many of his prize game were mounted in his home.
He loved his family. He was such a great grandfather and took his grandkids on many hunts over the years, according to Brodee Ripple. He supported them in all their endeavors. He was very old-fashioned, not a big fan of technology or computers in any way.
“He took a lot of pride in his business which was a Provo staple, was featured in several movies including ‘The Phone Call’ and ‘Midway to Heaven.’ He took over the family business from his father, Wally Ripple, in 1985,” Brodee Ripple, his youngest son, said.
“I will always be grateful for the lessons he taught me and the way he raised and supported his entire family,” Brodee Ripple said. “He was such an incredible example and man. I see a lot of him in myself, my siblings, and my nieces and nephews. I tribute some of my best qualities to this man.”
At home he was always sharing stories of his childhood, talking about his siblings, hunts, hikes or one of the other thousand adventures he went on.
“He always had cookies or a treat on hand to share with his grandkids when they came over and loved when his grandkids would offer hugs as payment for an ice cream cone,” Alison Ripple Taylor, his daughter, said. “He took pride in his work ethic and his gumption, and that he wouldn’t take guff from anybody regardless of his size.”
Everyone would comment on how he was a human calculator and added up things in his head so quickly. People loved that he remembered their names, their orders, or just small details about their lives, Brodee Ripple added.
It wasn’t only his grandkids he loved, but he was a great and supportive father in-law, according to Amy Ripple, wife of Todd’s son, Scott.
“He stepped in and filled that spot in my life when my dad passed, and I always felt safe and not alone in that place of my life because of Todd,” Amy Ripple said.
The Ripple family and Ripple’s Drive-In are overwhelmed at the outpouring of love and support they are receiving at this time.
“We appreciate your understanding as we navigate this difficult time. Todd loved his business and the customers who became family along the way. We would love for you to share any photos, memories, or stories you have of Todd,” the family has requested.
The Ripple family is planning a celebration of Todd’s life for the public to attend but the date and time have not been determined. Information will be posted on the Ripple’s Drive-In Facebook page in the coming week.
In lieu of flowers, a Venmo account has been set up to aid with funeral expenses. It can be found @RippleFamilyFund, the last four digits are 6794.
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality on Monday began accepting applications for rebates from dozens of Utah County residents who want to convert their wood-burning stoves or fireplaces to natural gas or propane devices.
The effort is part of the Wood Stove and Fireplace Conversion Assistance Program, which the DEQ and Utah Clean Air Partnership launched in October 2018 “to incentivize residents” to convert to environmentally friendly appliances and reduce wintertime pollution.
“Wood-burning stoves are a significant source of air pollution — pollution that negatively impacts individuals’ personal health and the environment,” Thom Carter, executive director of the Utah Clean Air Partnership, wrote in a blog post about the program. “Particles that make up the smoke and soot from wood-burning stoves can cause breathing difficulties and sometimes permanent lung damage for those who inhale the smoke.”
This is particularly an issue in winter months, according to Carter, who wrote that “smoke from wood-burning stoves gets trapped with other air pollutants resulting in health-threatening inversions.”
“In fact, wood-burning stoves can cause a mini-inversion within neighborhoods,” wrote Carter, who noted that “swapping an old, uncertified” wood stove for an EPA-certified stove can reduce fine particulate emissions by 60%.
“Under this five-year program, thousands of wood stoves will be replaced with cleaner burning devices, resulting in much less pollution along the Wasatch Front and in the Cache Valley,” Carter said. “And that will help all of us breathe a little easier in the winter.”
The program is made possible by three grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that “are designed to help areas in the country that do not meet a specific national ambient air quality standard,” according to Joel Karmazyn, a Utah Division of Air Quality environmental scientist and coordinator of the Wood Stove and Fireplace Conversion Assistance Program.
Between Monday and Wednesday, the DAQ will accept applications from Utah County residents and will grant 54 awards to residents who are eligible to receive exemptions on their federal tax returns.
While the conversions can cost upwards of $4,000, low-income homeowners are eligible to receive $3,800 from the DEQ, while other homeowners can receive up to $2,800.
“They are expensive, which is one of the reasons that we give a very generous financial incentive for low-income individuals,” Karmazyn said in an interview Monday.
By 11 a.m. Monday, 39 Utah County residents had already registered for rebates to convert their appliances, according to Karmazyn.
“It’s an extremely popular program,” he said. “People have known about it for a long time.”
The program does not apply to rental and commercial properties and is limited to one award per household, according to the DEQ.
Additionally, award recipients must use a vendor approved by the Utah Division of Air Quality, and the wood stoves “must be removed and recycled by the program vendor.”
New homeowners are not qualified and homeowners must “have a 12-month history of burning” fireplaces or stoves that provide a “significant amount of home heating.” Gas fireplaces and retroactive projects are not eligible.
Beginning in February, the DEQ will issue awards to 79 households in Cache County.
To learn more about the Wood Stove and Fireplace Conversion Assistance Program, visit http://deq.utah.gov/air-quality/wood-stove-conversion-assistance-program.