Per governor’s order, Dixie State, Southern Utah University to begin on-campus COVID-19 testing

ST. GEORGE — In accordance with Gov. Gary Herbert’s executive order issued Nov. 8, universities in Southern Utah will be incorporating weekly on-campus testing for COVID-19 and could begin as early as this week.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert seen in an address to all Utahns Sunday evening where he ordered a statewide mask mandate and prohibited social gatherings in households for the next two weeks. Nov. 8, 2020. | Photo courtesy of Utah Governor’s Office, St. George News

The order states that beginning as soon as possible but no later than Jan 1, all students who are enrolled at a higher institution and live in on-campus housing or have at least one on-campus class will be tested weekly for the coronavirus.

Garyn Gulbranson, director of DSU’s Booth Wellness Center, told St. George News that they are working closely with the Utah Department of Health to refine the process for student testing and have also partnered with a mobile testing team.

“They’re going to join us on campus this week to walk us through training for the test,” he said, adding that Dixie State should be receiving a “couple thousand” tests later this week or early next week.

Once they get these initial tests, students will be tested on a voluntary basis and act as a sample group to run through the process. The tests will be the noninvasive nasal swab test that provides results within 15 minutes.

Regarding concerns about students returning to campus after Thanksgiving, Gulbranson said they are feeling “really secure” in having students on campus, as they have been strict in enforcing the mask mandate since reopening in August.

He is mainly concerned with students going home for Thanksgiving.

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

“What I do advocate is for folks who are going and traveling through the Thanksgiving break that they be very considerate about their plans and ways to minimize risk there for their family members and loved ones.”

Dixie State is also moving forward with its 109th commencement scheduled for Dec. 11, which is currently scheduled as an in-person ceremony and will be held in the Greater Zion Stadium. All attendees must request tickets and will be required to wear a mask.

Gulbranson said they are working hard to make sure they follow all precautions for the ceremony, adding that he is happy they are able to celebrate the graduates.

The university has seen a slight increase in positive cases, which reflects the rise in cases across Southern Utah. As of yet, there has yet to be any evidence indicating spread within a classroom. Last week there were 48 new cases reported: 40 students and 8 faculty or staff members.  Total recovered cases for the fall 2020 semester are 337 with 307 students and 30 faculty or staff members.

Southern Utah University

David Bishop, director of public relations for Southern Utah University, told St. George News they are expecting to receive tests from the state later this week. Once they receive the tests, he said, they will begin implementing them.

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

They are still uncertain how many students they will be able to test before Thanksgiving break.

“That all depends on how many tests we get,” he said. “We’ll use every single test we get on students.”

While SUU will transition to fully remote learning after Thanksgiving, Bishop said they plan to test any students who remains on campus in the interim.

“Our Thanksgiving break starts next Wednesday, and so most of our student population is going to be gone early next week,” he said, adding that they will begin testing all students once spring semester starts.

According to information on the SUU website, from Nov. 5-11, there were 51 positive cases reported among students, faculty and staff – more than double from the previous week’s count of 23. As noted on the site, these case counts only reflect the numbers of positive cases that were self-reported.

Bishop said the increase is “a reflection of what’s taking place not only throughout the state but throughout the country.”

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

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