Kerry Bringhurst: Utah and surrounding Cache County have seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. That has alarmed state health and government officials and the state of Utah this week has introduced a new COVID-19 transmission index.
And joining me is USU President Noelle Cockett. As she has been in the past several weeks, she brings us an update on the impacts of these changes on Utah State University.
And welcome to you President Cockett. What can you tell us about the impacts of these changes on us, you and where we are right now in the pandemic?
President Noelle Cockett: Well, I'd love to do a countdown. We're in week seven. We're still going strong. We're doing what we can, again, always looking to reduce the risk of infection.
We're really holding steady at about 10 or 12 positive cases per day. We're not seeing spikes in proportion to what's being seen in Cache Valley.
KB: President, Cache County has been placed at the high-level that requires that social gatherings must be limited to 10 or fewer individuals. Face coverings must be worn in all indoor settings outside the home, physical distancing also being practiced and staying at home if you have any symptoms. That would impact the Logan campus, What about campuses statewide?
NC: Our main campuses, our residential campuses are in Cache County, which is in a high level of infection, and then Carbon and San Juan, which are both in the medium level of infection.
It turns out, though, that our precautionary practices are actually in line with what's required at the high level of infection. So we don't anticipate anything that will change for us. All of the, you know, implemented control points allow us to continue to have activities, events, classes, labs, library, testing center with more than the 10 people because we do the masks, the social distancing, the hand sanitizer, restricting positive people, being in self isolation, etc.
Now in Cache Valley, though, this does affect things that are happening there. Masks now need to be worn inside buildings, more emphasis on social distancing, and then casual social gatherings, less than 10.
KB: So what does that mean, as far as the football season here at Utah State University, it sounds like that's still a go.
NC: Yeah. So again, all the football players will be tested three times a week. For the spectators at this point, we're looking at social distancing of greater than six feet, unless it's a household. But that puts us at about, I think I heard 5000 people in the stadium total.
And so unfortunately, we're not sure that the band our wonderful, wonderful USU marching band, will actually be able to go onto the field. And some of the other half time and events that we've done down on the field won't be possible.
We do want to work closely with the governor's office, and make sure that the governor's office is comfortable with us having spectators at our game.
KB: There has been speculation that the increasing COVID-19 cases in the Cache County area is a result of the number of students at USU who have tested positive for COVID, but you say that's not true.
NC: No, we know exactly which students are positive. The Bear River Health Department shares that information with us. We did have a little influx after about the third week when we tested one of our resident halls. But again, since that little spike, there's definitely positives in that population, but we're not seeing spikes in proportion to what's being seen in Cache Valley.
So our numbers that we monitor and that are posted on our COVID-19 website are all of our students and all of our employees. Again, heavy emphasis on we all need to do our part. We all need to be in this together. You need to be careful. Having the Cache County go back to mask requirements will certainly help
KB: Utah State University President Noelle Cockett. As always, we appreciate you taking the time to update us on what is happening on the USU campus in regards to this pandemic. Thank you so much.