SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Nov. 9, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — The University of Utah has announced a plan to test every student for COVID-19 before Thanksgiving break.
The news comes after the state of Utah issued an Emergency Alert on Sunday night notifying residents of a new series of public health orders.
“This is so important to reduce the spread of the virus in our community and to ease the pressure on our hospitals,” said a tweet from U of U President Ruth Watkins Monday morning.
A news release from the U said the intention is to test the more than 32,000 students for COVID-19 before everyone heads out for Thanksgiving break.
“While that may seem like a daunting or maybe even impossible task the University of Utah is undertaking it,” the news release said. “From Nov. 11-23, students are asked to report to one of the available locations and be tested for the coronavirus. The decision to test all students for COVID-19 is not one being taken lightly. The fact is that despite all best efforts, the number of cases of the virus is rising at an alarming rate and so additional measures to stop the spread must be taken. These tests are part of those measures.”
Cameron Wright, the program manager of campus COVID-19, said: “Testing plays a critical role because of asymptomatic spread. We know that’s happened. With the state giving us access to additional rapid tests we now can expand the asymptomatic testing of the student population.
“The more often we can conveniently get the students tested, the more quickly we can help identify those who we can support in isolating and keeping those around them safe as well. And then as an extension of that, the more programming we can keep available, which is really the value of this university experience. So, the more we test, the safer we keep everyone, the more quickly we can respond, the more programming we can keep online and available to our campus community.”
Students will receive a notification to sign up for a time to come into one of the multiple testing locations and the U is working to make them as convenient as possible for the students.
Students be asked to download an app that will allow them to register so that the process goes smoothly once they’re on site, the news release said. That app will also give them their test results.
“The first thing that happens if somebody tests positive with a rapid test on site we will we’ll have them provide a saliva sample so that we can confirm that that test was in fact positive,” the news release said. “In the meantime, they will be presumed positive so they will be asked to isolate to prevent spreading to other individuals while they’re waiting for their results. If they are confirmed positive, then of course the isolation period begins. Students who test positive will follow the 14-day protocols for isolation and quarantine that comes as part of that.”
The U is also hoping to regularly make this testing available to students in the spring semester, the news release said.