As college students statewide are driving up coronavirus infection rates, Utah State University is working to limit the impact of a “cluster” of COVID-19 cases.
USU reported on Thursday that testing in its six Living Learning Center dorms has confirmed 31 cases there so far.
“This cluster of cases in the LLC drives home the importance of USU’s policy on face coverings and ensuring social distancing in classrooms, without which many more individuals could have been exposed and would be required to quarantine,” a USU release states.
The university started out by sampling “100 students who were targeted for quicker testing,” the release states. Then, for good measure, all remaining LLC residents were tested on Wednesday.
Testing the remaining students “was a precautionary step and the students tested Sept. 23 were not asked to restrict their movements or stay home unless they or their close contacts tested positive for the coronavirus,” the release states.
The news comes as local and state health officials say Utah’s resurgent COVID-19 cases are being driven in large part by college students.
Since Sept. 10 — a week and a half into the fall semester — the Bear River Health District has not recorded fewer than 20 new cases a day. Over that time, the district has recorded 558 new cases, 463 of which have been from Cache County.
For its part, Utah State University has reported about 307 cases for the fall semester. This data should come with some caveats, however, especially when comparing it to BRHD statistics: USU collects its numbers very differently, including through a survey it asks tested students to fill out as well as tests it administers to students and by being notified through local health departments. BRHD only reports positive, active-infection tests.
USU’s numbers also include all USU students, staff and faculty, wherever they are. According to USU spokesperson Amanda DeRito, most of the current numbers are linked to the main campus in Logan, but the university doesn’t break down case counts by location “in order to protect the privacy of those who test positive and work or learn at our smaller campuses,” which include 32 locations scattered across the state.
About 37% of this semester’s registrations are for all-online “asynchronous” courses, where lectures are pre-recorded if there are any, according to USU spokesperson Emilie Wheeler. About 42% of students were in classes with some face-to-face component, and 9% were in classes with lectures or discussions via video conferencing. Only 13% of registrations are for traditional, face-to-face classes.
BRHD reported 34 new cases on Thursday and 40 new cases Friday, bringing the 7-day rolling average of new daily cases to about 34 in the health district, which covers Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties. There are an estimated 625 active cases in the district. About 83% of the more-than 3,200 COVID-19 cases in the district since the beginning of the pandemic have been in Cache County. Rich County has only reported 18 cases, although seven of those cases have been reported in the last two weeks.