Utah State University tested 6,225 students as part of its COVID-19 monitoring effort between Wednesday, Nov. 11, and Friday, Nov. 20. A total of 6,225 students received a rapid antigen test on USU campuses in Logan, Price and Blanding. All COVID-19 testing on USU campuses involves a sampling technique where the patient uses a short swab to collect a sample in the bottom inch of the nose. It is minimally invasive and not painful.
Of these tests, 1.38% were positive, and case investigation revealed most of those students actually had minor symptoms or known exposure to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.
“We’re finding that those who test positive typically do have symptoms, but they are mild or may be symptoms not readily connected with COVID-19 or easy to write off as allergies,” said Cindy Gill, USU’s COVID-19 case containment manager.
Gill said students who test positive are contacted and asked about a wide variety of possible symptoms that can be associated with the coronavirus, including: fever, chills or rigors, muscle aches, runny nose, a sore or scratchy throat, cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, loss of smell, and loss of taste.
Students who test positive are also given information about how to self-isolate, asked about their close contacts who must quarantine, and provided information about support resources offered by the university.
The tests used for this large-scale monitoring effort were provided by the state of Utah through federal resources. On Monday, Nov. 23, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced a new public health order that, beginning Jan. 1, 2021, requires universities to test students who live in on-campus housing or who attend at least one in-person class at least every 14 days. This is a change from once every 7 days required in Herbert’s last public health order.
The university also relies on wastewater monitoring to look for potential outbreaks in the campus community and identify housing areas where students should be tested to stop the COVID-19 chain of transmission. USU has wastewater monitoring sites on its campuses in Logan, Price and Blanding.
In addition to testing students to monitor for COVID-19, USU also provides PCR COVID-19 testing at the East Stadium Testing Site on the Logan campus. Last week, this site tested an additional 1,825 students.
PCR and antigen tests, both of which are offered by USU, are diagnostic and indicate active coronavirus infection. PCR tests detect the virus’s genetic material, and antigen tests detect specific proteins.
The Stadium testing site will be closed Wednesday through Sunday this week. Anyone who needs a test over the Thanksgiving break should reach out to community testing, including Intermountain Health Care and Test Utah.
Watch a video about USU’s student testing to monitor for COVID-19.
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