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Jan. 11 Weekly Interview With USU President Noelle Cockett

I'm Kerry Bringhurst. You're listening to Utah Public Radio, and joining me now is USU President Noelle Cockett.

President, some disappointing news today as you received word that the Utah System of Higher Education students and faculty are not in the lineup for vaccinations against COVID-19, for who knows how long.

NC: Well, we were actually talking about that at the Council of Presidents of the Utah System of Higher Education this morning, and it's probably not likely that higher education will get a jump on the vaccination and that it may come about just as the public is vaccinated. So, no special consideration for faculty and staff at the higher education institution. 

We certainly anticipate that our faculty and staff at the university will seek out the vaccinations when those are more widely available to the public.

KB: What was the mood in the meeting?


NC: Disappointment. I mean, this is just one of the, shall we call it, arrows in our quivers on how to keep our campuses safe and keep our classes going.

I do get the prioritization, as the governor is looking through, you know, how many doses, how quickly can they be deployed, etc. And many of those teachers do not have the option to go remote as we do on our campus. And if they were to have to go to remote, how much that affects entire families on how to juggle that and get through that. So again, I think there's a good justification for that priority to social interactions as well as learning opportunities. 

And I think, you know, as you're dealing with younger people, too, the studies I've seen tend to show that the younger children don't show the symptoms, even though they are infected. Looking at the situation, the K-12 does make a lot of sense to me.

KB: Students,  who are arriving on Monday, we're getting the testing centers all set up. You can still do the drive-thru at the Maverik center parking lots. Anything else that's new as far as how Aggies might be dealing with this in the coming week?

NC: Well, I want to stress again, just as you said, our east stadium drive-thru testing is available. What's surprising to us, the numbers are quite low. We have a capacity, up to 400 people a day, and we're not seeing more than about 150 per day. So again, we're really encouraging people to get tested. 

And, last week I talked about the challenge. My fellow president said that Utah Higher of Ed System has accepted that challenge. We’ll be working through the student government and student activity groups to get that rolled out. If President Worthen from BYU is listening, I sent him an email on Friday challenging BYU. And I hope he takes up that challenge because I know the other presidents are very eager to have that chance to show the participation of their students.

And you know, a challenge, I think, allows our students to move away from the compliance part of it, and instead just show their care of others, their institutional spirit and to bring home the trophy, whatever that might be.

KB: So when can we expect that to roll out? In the next couple of weeks, or?

NC: Oh, I intend to have our challenge out by, it's actually our first day of testing, this Tuesday. So, we will start our testing at noon, 12 o'clock at, and this is a change from what I said before, it's at the Eccles Conference Center.

KB: And I understand you'll also be doing testing on the Blanding campus as well as USU Eastern, and then in the next couple of weeks being able to provide testing at all campus locations throughout the state of Utah. 

Well, President Noelle Cockett, we're out of time for this week. Appreciate you so much for joining us and we'll talk to you next week.

NC: Thanks, Kerry.

KB: You're listening to Utah Public Radio.