‘We cannot enforce or require students to get tested’: Local universities implement governor’s order

Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In accordance with Gov. Gary Herbert’s order issued Monday, Utah colleges and universities will only be required to test students for COVID-19 every other week instead of weekly.

Dixie State has received just under 4,000 tests from the state, Garyn Gulbranson, director of DSU’s Wellness Center, told St. George News.

So far, they’ve tested 103 students and anticipate testing as many students as they have tests for beginning Dec. 2. While the total student population is between 12,000 and 15,000 students, he said the number of students that fall within the requirements outlined in the governor’s order is between 8,000 and 9,000 students.

“Our projected testing is about 9,000 students next spring that would fall under that category,” Gulbranson said.

Of the 103 tested students, they had two positive cases.

“Given the small sample size we can’t draw inferences at this time but we should have a better idea of positive percentage rates following testing in December,” Gulbranson said.

Photo illustration. | Photo by
Alek Zotoff, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

It’s unclear what the impact of testing bi-weekly or weekly will look like, he said, but it definitely makes it “a little easier logistically” for the university to test 9,000 students every other week versus weekly.

Right now the university is working on a system in which students will register for a test window, and then they will receive a notification when the time is available.

“All in all, the testing takes a minute or 90 seconds per person, and then we run through the test and those results are delivered within 24 hours,” he said.

Whether students have the option of opting out of testing, Gulbranson said.

“We cannot enforce or require students to get tested,” he said, adding that they do hope students get tested and take advantage of this free service and from what he’s seen so far, students are eager to do so.

David Bishop, director of public relations for Southern Utah University, told St. George News that they started testing Nov. 18 and have been testing every weekday since.

Southern Utah University campus in Cedar City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News

“Today is the last day that our students will be on campus for the rest of the semester, then we go to remote learning after the Thanksgiving break to the end of the semester,” he said, adding that they will continue to test students who remain on campus.

So far they have tested 1,943 students; and of those, 49 students tested positive with 29 being asymptomatic. Overall, he said the testing has been going “quite well.”

“This is a work in progress, and it’s like this for every other university, especially those who haven’t been testing on campus up until the governor’s order came down,” he said, “but it’s been pretty seamless for us in terms of getting it up and running.”

Last week, Nov. 12-18, they had 71 positive cases on campus — their highest case count to date.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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