PROVO (ABC4) – Even in the midst of a COVID-19 surge that has brought the state’s daily new case count back into the four digits, Brigham Young University is seeing massive success in limiting the virus’ spread on campus.
According to the school’s reporting figures, BYU has managed to cut positive cases down to about a sixth of what they were last year. At this time during the Fall 2020 semester, BYU was seeing an average of around 66 cases per day. This semester, officials are reporting an average of around 11 per day.
The encouraging figures come at a time when nearly all of the state, including Utah County, is categorized as having a high level of transmission, according to Utah’s transmission level index.
Prior to the start of the semester, which was announced to be held with full on-campus attendance, BYU asked its students to submit an anonymous survey to report their vaccination status and or their willingness to receive a vaccine or comply with any restrictions or guidelines.
Having a bead on where students stand on vaccination as well as the implementation of an indoor mask requirement where social distancing isn’t possible could be major factors in BYU’s ability to defy the high transmission that surrounds the Provo-based campus. As it stands, BYU has just 55 cases, which represent 0.14% of the entire community on campus.
“We’re grateful for the efforts of our students, faculty, and staff who have continued to adapt in order to keep our campus community safe from COVID-19. The faculty, who assist in enforcing the classroom mask requirement, have reported high compliance from students this semester,” Natalie Ipson, a member of the BYU’s COVID-19 emergency task force says to ABC4.com.
Ipson states that as of the start of this week, 80% of students and 82% of faculty and staff have received at least one dose of a vaccine. While she calls those numbers “encouraging,” the goal is to boost the figure even higher.
“There is still a need for more of the community to be immunized,” Ipson adds. “BYU will continue to provide COVID-19 immunization clinics on campus for students, faculty, and staff who are completing the vaccination process.”
Other higher education schools in counties around the state are also seeing a drop-off in cases as compared to last year. According to the University of Utah’s campus-wide self-reporting system, the campus in Salt Lake City is seeing a 7-day average of 5.1 new cases and has had just 338 positive results since the start of the semester on Aug. 18. At the start of the pandemic’s outbreak in March 2020, Utah had over 3,764 cases in that month alone.
With the full FDA requirement of the Pfizer vaccine, Utah moved to require COVID-19 vaccination on Sept. 1, explaining that a requirement isn’t a new thing; students are also required to be shielded against measles, mumps, and rubella. A non-compliant student who is not granted an exemption won’t be able to register for the Spring 2022 semester, according to the school’s statement.
While BYU is not yet requiring vaccination from their students, officials are remaining steadfast in their strong encouragement. Students were required, however, to report their status before receiving access to their online campus and school resources.
Utah County’s other major university, Utah Valley, is preparing to institute a vaccination requirement for the Spring 2022 semester. The vaccine is not required for the current semester and masks are merely recommended indoors as opposed to required as they are at BYU.
Up north in Logan, Utah State University has a bit more active student cases than BYU with 75 but is seeing a major distinction in cases for on-campus students and students living off-campus. The Aggies who are living on-campus make up just 11 of those cases, with those in off-campus housing accounting for 64 cases.
In August, USU Vice President of Student Affairs James Morales told ABC4.com that the school would be working to connect roommates of students living on-campus to each other early, so they could have a conversation about vaccinations and reach a level of comfortability together.
“We really encourage that kind of interaction to be happening and we will facilitate that as much as we possibly are permitted to,” Morales stated at the time.