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Over a dozen positive COVID-19 cases found in U of U student housing
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Over a dozen positive COVID-19 cases in University of Utah student housing

(Screen grab from the University of Utah's "Return to Campus" Webinar. Credit: University of Utah)

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH – Classes have kicked off at the University of Utah, the first semester under new COVID-19 restrictions.  The school has tested thousands of students living in the dorms for the virus, and they believe they’re in a good position to deal with possibly infected students.

Normally, on the first day of the new semester, the parking lot at Rice-Eccles Stadium would be completely full.  Not today, though.  Campus officials say only 23 percent of their classes are strictly “in person.”  The rest are all either online or a hybrid between the two methods. 

Gone were the first day, getting to know you “icebreakers,” one student says.  He says his classmates didn’t really even speak with each other that much, and everyone stayed perfectly still for the entire 90 minutes.  Also, there were all the cleaning and disinfecting supplies one would expect.

He says, “I’ve noticed there’s an abundant source of hand sanitizer, everywhere.”

Another student says there were only 25 students in one of her classrooms, which is much fewer than the teacher would normally have.

“Everyone was very separated.  There were two people to a very long desk.  Everyone had masks,” she says.

Even with all of the uncertainty students may be feeling as the school year begins, she believes the university is doing what it can to keep kids protected.

She says, “I feel safe.  I was actually in a prevention practice classroom, so we talked a lot about it.  All of us in our classroom agreed that we feel safe with the precautions the campus is taking.”

New students have been moving into the dorms over the past few weeks, and university officials say every person living in campus housing has been tested for the virus.  So far, the school has received the results from over 3,200 tests, and 16 tested positive.  Some of those students went home, while others are in isolation.  The university issued a statement, saying…

“Approximately 3,400 students are expected to live on campus this fall—including about 100 student-athletes who were previously tested when they arrived at the U earlier this summer and late-arriving students, who will be tested once they are on campus.”

Lexi Maschoff with University Housing says each student is required to report any symptoms, or if they’ve had contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19.

She says, “It prompts them to tell us if they would like to remain isolated in their room on campus or in an isolation space on campus.  Or, would they prefer to leave and go home to an off-campus location.”

However, she says not every student can go back home if they test positive.  Some are there on scholarship from out of state, and others just don’t have family living close enough.  The school has set aside over 400 isolation rooms where students can separate themselves from the rest of the student body while food is brought to them, and they can be in constant communication with campus officials.

 “They’ll be communicating in whatever form the resident prefers, whether that’s texting, face-timing or via phone,” Maschoff says.


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