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USU reports COVID-19 virus in wastewater from residence halls

(FILE: Utah State University)

LOGAN, Utah — Students living in four residence halls on the campus of Utah State University are in quarantine after “elevated levels of the COVID-19 virus” turned up in wastewater samples, school officials said.

287 students live in Rich, Jones, Morgan, and Davis residence halls.  In a statement sent to KSL NewsRadio, USU said it asked the students to quarantine; they must remain quarantined until test results come back, anywhere between three and four days.

The students living in the affected residence halls will fill out what the University calls a COVID-19 questionnaire, which will help ensure that, while quarantined, they will receive academic accommodations, food, and other resources.

USU to implement COVID testing

Based on testing samples, the University says they have found no other elevated levels of the virus on campus. The school also says there are currently no reported positive cases of COVID-19 in the affected residence halls.

USU said, via a statement, that it is preparing to test all 287 students in the Rich, Jones, Morgan, and Davis residence halls between today and Monday. The school will receive assistance with testing from the Utah Department of Health and the Bear River Health Department.

The discovery is almost a blessing in disguise, some school officials say — allowing for the college to increase testing among students. 

“What it does is gives us a chance to identify areas where we might have cases,” said Amanda DeRito, USU director of crisis communications. “It’s basically an early warning system because we will find out there might be potential cases before people are likely to develop symptoms.  So on average it will tell us a few days before, once we start seeing elevated levels, before people would otherwise be reporting they have symptoms, and are ill.”

Wastewater testing provides an early alert warning for the university to address potential cases of COVID-19. It also provides an opportunity to prevent further spread of the virus. 

Utah State University was among three other Utah universities that joined with the state of Utah to test sewage samples in an effort to track the spread of COVID-19. 

In April, researchers began testing the wastewater entering 10 treatment plants along the Wasatch Front and northern Utah. 

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

UtahState Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States