COVID-19 testing efforts ramp up at the University of Utah, allowing access to all students

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The University of Utah has been randomly selecting students and staff to test for COVID-19, in an effort to gauge the virus’ spread on campus. And testing will now ramp up with rapid test kits for all students.

Optional, asymptomatic random testing began in October. Now, a month later U spokesperson Chris Nelson said (as of Monday, Nov. 9th) thousands of students and staff have been tested.

“We’ve done about 16,000 tests and we’ve had about a one percent positivity rate, which matches up with what we’re seeing in the community,” he said.

With about 32,000 students and hundreds of staff on the U’s campus, Nelson said that during the pandemic, officials with the U’s Asymptomatic Random COVID Testing program are monitoring the number of cases.

“We realized we couldn’t test everyone on campus, but we could do random sampling to give us a sense of what was out there. Now we’re moving to test everyone on campus,” Nelson said.

Following Governor Gary Herbert’s call to expand testing efforts on Utah’s college campuses, the U will now test more students than ever before.

Beginning Wednesday, the U will make rapid testing available to every student who wants to be tested, up to the Thanksgiving break.

The rapid test will be done with a nasal swab, and results will be ready within hours. U testing officials said if a person does test positive, they will then take a spit test to confirm the results.

“If every single one of our students were to take the test, it’s just about over $160,000,” Nelson said.

He said tests are about $5 per person and the university will bear that cost.

“What we’ve been emphasizing to our students is it’s not just about your safety, it’s not just about the student’s safety,” he said, “it’s about the safety of the community those students are returning to, the safety of the community those students live in.”

U testing officials told ABC4 News that students will receive a text message alert Wednesday about testing times and availability.

And as for the Governor’s weekly testing order — of all students — by January 1st, Nelson said the U will be ready, but some details are still in the works, as to what required means and what happens if a person does not take the test.

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