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Rising COVID Cases, First Football Game, With President Cockett On UPR

Utah State University

It's Friday and you're listening to Utah Public Radio. I'm Kerry Bringhurst. We have our weekly conversation with Utah State University President Noelle Cockett. 

It’s been kind of a crazy week with the increase in COVID-19 numbers, President, especially in the northern portion of the state, but you aren't seeing those numbers so much on the USU campus, because of the rapid testing that's happening. I understand you're testing around 103 students, and that classes are continuing. 

President Noelle Cockett: We are at week nine. We're going strong. Our numbers are up a tiny bit, but our testing is helping people keep themselves and others safe. So I am confident we are moving on to week’s end, 

KB: I was just looking up the numbers from COVID today and what do these numbers mean for you and Utah State University? At what point do we have to shut down and send students home? And is there more of a risk in doing that, than keeping them here?


NC: We actually don't see a number per se, that we would reach. We've talked about it and sometimes that's a little frustrating to people they want a number, but we just say when we can no longer provide the resources that we think are appropriate. 


So that's, you know, that is working with her faculty so they can manage their classes, when in fact students are in isolation, or quarantine. But by identifying that as a possible bottleneck, we've started adding more support staff to faculty.

Our testing capacity is such that if a person goes in in the morning, they can actually get their test results that evening by about 5:30 or 6. And we've heard that that's the best turnaround in the state. And we're continuing the wastewater (testing.) 

The wastewater, again, is a great predictor. We actually have it so that we know about what one positive person does on a wastewater collection. And almost every time we've been able, if we'll see a little bit of a spike in a resident hall, we'll go back in the records and there is a positive person. Testing the wastewater can start identifying those locations. 

And I regret to say that Carbon County, Price and Blanding, wastewater numbers have started going up as well. So have their cases. It's not large numbers, again, on our campus. 

KB: Let's take a minute to talk about football. The Aggies will face San Diego State tomorrow night at 7:30 a Utah State University in the Maverick Stadium. Any reservations about holding a football game during a pandemic?

NC: You know, I've had a lot of concerns that I've gotten through emails and things, but it is Halloween night. And I have to say I think our students will be safer at our football game. 

With all the restrictions and the, you know, the processes we have put in place, more than any other place they could go in Cache Valley. We've looked at every detail. 


So one of the big efforts we've done is to space out all of our seats to have more than six feet of distance. Households, roommates or it could be a family or a group of friends, can actually pick a place in the stadium where up to five people can sit together. 

It's extremely organized, which door you come in, which stairway you use, which restroom you can go to. There's even an app that people can download. And it's funny. It's called Paranoid Fan. And you can actually purchase food on this phone app and then it will be delivered to your seat. The whole idea is to know exactly where people are to maintain that social distancing. reduce and eliminate any kind of mingling. You have to stay in your seat and masks at all times. 

KB: All right, well again, that game begins at 7:30 tomorrow evening in Maverick Stadium on the Utah State University campus. USU President Noelle Cockett, thank you so much for taking the time to update us this week.