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Returning To Campus, Updated COVID Testing For Students With President 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, and you're listening to Utah Public Radio. As we begin a new year, we also look forward to new classes beginning here on the campus at Utah State University. And that leads to the return of our conversations with USU President Noelle Cockett. 

And President, I understand a report has been released, outlining some of the positive aspects of how things were dealt with regarding COVID-19 at USU during the last semester, including the fact that USU was recognized nationally for the amount of financial support they've been able to provide to students, but there have been other recognitions as well.

Noelle Cockett: Yes, I'm very glad to be able to return and tell people how we're doing at USU with COVID. We did not have a single incidence of a positive case that occurred through our classes or laboratories. The protocols, all of the precautions, the requirements of masks and social distancing, and the structure of our classrooms and etc., etc., etc., did keep the risk of infection to zero. And so very, very proud of that.

KB: President Cockett, the Utah System of Higher Education came out with some new guidelines as we look forward to next semester, including the testing of students as they returned to campuses, not only here in Logan, but also in Blanding and at USU Eastern in Price, when exactly will those tests begin

NC: The scheduling will open on Thursday. They can pick a time to swing by the TSC ballroom, if they're in Logan, as well as Blanding and Eastern. 

Now our other campuses will also have testing, we haven't quite worked that detail out. What I know now, is that testing is so helpful in people's decisions of what they do next. 

You know, and people say, ‘what's going to happen if I don't get tested?’ Well, we as Aggies do it for a different reason. We do it because we care about others, we care about our friends, or roommates or classmates or faculty, etc. 

But what I'm also hoping I can do is create an institutional challenge to the eight public institutions in Utah as well as BYU that are to do this return to school testing. And I believe that with that challenge, that USU will have victory in the number and the percentage of students that get tested. So I'm actually just about ready to lay down the gauntlet to my fellow presidents on this challenge.

KB: So this is an official challenge, you'll be asking these different institutions to participate in. We always like a good challenge here at USU, don't we?

NC: And we generally win too. I'm so proud of our students. And we're actually designing stickers that our students can have after they get tested. You know, something that says ‘I did my part.’ And so we'll see, we'll see whether the other institutions are ready for that challenge 

KB: Well, that sounds official. Some of the changes that we're looking at, I believe that we're going to be discontinuing the testing of students every 14 days. Is that correct?

NC: Well, it's been modified in that occasionally, they will ask us to look at what our positivity rate is, or infection rate. The idea is that if you monitor your infection positivity rate and you notice that it's beginning to creep up, then you can do more targeted testing.


If we do the random sample, it truly is a random sample of students, and it probably would be about 1000 students. So 1000 students would be contacted, ‘would you please be willing to come in, get tested?’ And then we calculate the positivity rate on that.


KB: Very good. President Noelle Cockett of Utah State University, we appreciate your time.


NC: Yep, thanks so much, Kerry.


KB: And we'll speak to President Cockett again next week here on Utah Public Radio.

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.