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Nov. 23 Weekly Interview With USU President Noelle Cockett

A woman dressed in blue PPE wearing a mask and a face shield takes a COVID-19 test from a person in a vehicle at a drive up testing site.

I’m Kerry Bringhurst welcoming Utah State University President Noelle Cockett for our conversation about what is happening with students regarding COVID-19.

And this conversation will be the first we've had since students completed on-campus, in-person instruction. In retrospect, now that the in person classes have concluded, is there anything you would have done differently this semester?

NC: Would I have done anything differently this semester? If I had had a magic wand, I would have started testing sooner. I think I would have liked to have testing, you know, as people came onto campus, so that they would know that they're positive and can self isolate. That will be something that we will be doing for Spring semester.

The second thing, I think, and this sounds kind of funny, but convince people that there's no stigma in being positive. I think those first couple of weeks, even the first couple of months, like, ‘oh, you're positive,’ ‘oh, that person's positive,’ ‘oh, you know, another person's positive,’ it just is happening. And we need to be able to support the people, make sure that during that time that they're in self isolation, or in quarantine, they just are, and when they can come back, they just come back.

I think there was still too much worry about, you know, ‘I don't want anybody to know I'm positive.’ And that may have led to a higher rate of infection downstream. So I think, being much more pragmatic,

KB: Are we still offering on campus testing to students, faculty and staff who are still in town?

NC: Yes, we are. We have the testing center of the East stadium open today and tomorrow, but we will be closed Wednesday through Sunday.

Our nursing students are some of the people who staff the East stadium testing site, and many of those students have left to go for Thanksgiving break. So we're actually having to do the testing site using volunteers. And we're able to line up some people today and tomorrow, but realize that it would be more difficult over the holidays. So unfortunately, no testing available through USU Wednesday through Sunday. 

USU started testing with the Binax antigen test on our Blanding and Eastern campuses and will continue with guidance from the main campus on how to do testing after the break and then what will happen when Spring semester starts. We do hope that we can do some testing at some of our other campuses as well.

I would like to bring up something on the symptoms. So we did as you know, large numbers of students last week, and the week before through our our, it's called a Binaz test, I think I was probably about 6,000 students. Of the people that tested we've had 1% that were positive. We actually called all those students and asked if they had symptoms. And they said that they did. They had things like sore throat, scratchy throat, stuffy nose, headache. And what we believe is that these other symptoms are actually turning out to be fairly common with young people. And so we asked students why they didn't think that it might be COVID. And a lot of the students said, ‘Well, I didn't have a fever or a cough.’ And so we want to get the word out that you know, you should definitely get tested, if any kind of illness.

KB: We're out of time for today and our conversation, President Noelle Cockett at Utah State University. Thank you so much for joining us today and have a great holiday.

At 14-years-old, Kerry began working as a reporter for KVEL “The Hot One” in Vernal, Utah. Her radio news interests led her to Logan where she became news director for KBLQ while attending Utah State University. She graduated USU with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and spent the next few years working for Utah Public Radio. Leaving UPR in 1993 she spent the next 14 years as the full time mother of four boys before returning in 2007. Kerry and her husband Boyd reside in Nibley.