Utah System of Higher Education issues new testing protocol

Utah State University began randomized COVID-19 testing for students on Feb.9. The new system is replacing the fall semester mandate, which required students to get tested once a week.

The randomized testing method is part of the Utah System of Higher Education’s intensive testing plan. According to USHE, they have, “developed a rigorous testing program that involves several layers of testing strategies that strive to accurately identify students with current COVID-19 infection, determine campus COVID-19 infection trends and most efficiently utilize available resources.”

USHE is referring to the new testing system as “randomized surveillance testing.”

“In order to continue testing everyone weekly, we needed a lot of manpower and a lot of test kits,” university spokesperson Amanda DeRito said. “Randomized surveillance testing simplifies the process.”

The original mandate, which required weekly testing of all college students, was issued by former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert in November. Since then, USHE has been working with the governor’s office to modify the mandate to suit the needs of the institutions.

In the testing plan released by USHE, they said they believe there will be “improved compliance with a randomized testing protocol.”

DeRito said she tends to agree with that statement.

“It requires less action from students,” she said. “They don’t have to worry about scheduling a new test every week.”

DeRito said this new process will be referred to as “Tuesday testing.” Students who live on campus or have one class with an “in-person” attribute will receive an email the Wednesday before their test. They will then be directed to make an appointment though  https://aggiehealth.usu.edu/confirm.aspx.

DeRito added that approximately 217 students were tested for the first round of “Tuesday testing” on Feb. 9. All 217 came back negative for COVID.

She also said the testing is based on a formula that gives a more accurate representation of COVID on campus.

The formula, introduced by Steve Lacey from University of Utah and Shane Reese from BYU, include the following factors to determine how many students should be tested at each institution every week: The number of eligible students on campus, the current infection rate and the desired range of detectable change in COVID-19 infection.

DeRito said the resources being utilized to keep students safe this semester are similar to last semester. This includes things like wastewater testing and case containment management.

“We have learned so much since last semester,” she said. “Case containment, now being combined with data from ‘Tuesday testing,’ will help us see where we need to focus testing this semester.”

She added that everyone needs to wear a mask and continue doing their part to stop the spread.

Testing will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Eccles Conference Center every Tuesday. Students and faculty are still able to get tested at Maverik’s East Stadium during the week by appointment.




Janelle B. Smith

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