Most of Utah’s colleges and universities have begun weekly COVID-19 testing in preparation for statewide mandated testing that will begin in January. The first rounds of rapid antigen testing have shown relatively low positivity rates. Earlier this month, Gov. Gary Herbert issued an order that will require all Utah college students who live on campus or take at least one class on campus to undergo weekly testing starting in January.
The rapid antigen test can produce results within 15 minutes. It requires a swab of a lower nostril, which is applied to a test card, roughly the size of a credit card, that can detect the presence of proteins found on or within the novel coronavirus. People who test positive are advised to confirm the test result with a polymerase chain reaction or PCR test, which are considered to be highly accurate.
Brigham Young University completed its first day of rapid antigen testing two weeks ago, testing 2,218 students with a 1.35 percent positivity rate. BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said the university had expected to test more than 6,000 students before Thanksgiving.
The University of Utah’s goal was to test 32,000 students before Thanksgiving break. The school’s first round of testing included 4,867 students with a positivity rate just under 2 percent.
Most of the state’s institutes of higher learning expected to have started testing by last week. Students on residential campuses such as the University of Utah and Utah State University who test positive are asked to isolate following positive test results. If they elected to do that on campus, they were provided food service over the holiday break.