SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – As part of a mandate from Governor Gary Herbert,  universities are offering rapid antigen COVID-19 tests to their students. It’s a way of protecting Utah’s campuses and the surrounding communities.

Before University of Utah students head home for Thanksgiving break, thousands stopped by the tower at Rice-Eccles Stadium to get tested.

“What we’re doing is encouraging students to take it not only for their safety but also for the safety of the communities they’re going back to, families they’re going back to,” U of U spokesperson Chris Nelson told ABC4 News Friday.

Unlike testing for people experiencing symptoms of the virus, this is a surveillance test meant to detect asymptomatic cases that can then be isolated and contact traced.

“The test itself is kind of fun. It’s like a pregnancy test,” University of Utah Testing Program Manager Cameron Wright said. “It takes 15 minutes to get the result but then again it depends on the volume of students coming through.”

“It wasn’t very difficult,” U of U Grad Student Jaycie Fickle said. “I just had to swab my own nose and put it in a tube and they did two tests and they were both pretty fast and easy.”

Out of 4,876 tests administered at the U through Wednesday, 100 positive cases were detected for a 2.05% positivity rate. Brigham Young University reports 2225 tests with 28 cases for a 1.26% positive rate. Weber State has done 3,508 surveillance tests with 41 coming back positive, a rate of 1.17%. All very low compared to the statewide average of 23.6% of people with symptoms who test positive.

“I would credit our students with this. Our students seem to be doing the right thing,” Nelson said. “No one likes wearing a mask. No one likes getting tested but they’re willing to do it to keep the University moving forward.”

The University of Utah will offer the rapid antigen tests through Monday and then resume when students return to campus in January.

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