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Utah college students with COVID-19 reporting mild, no symptoms

FILE: Salt Lake County mobile testers gather information from people as they wait in long lines to get tested for COVID-19 at the county’s testing site in the Maverik Center parking lot in West Valley City on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (Photo: Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Many college students in Utah who test positive for COVID-19 say they are not experiencing any symptoms. Of those that do, most are pretty mild like a sore throat. 

Although college students have ended up in local hospitals with COVID-19, many are surprised they became infected. 

Aislynn Tolman-Hill with the Utah County Health Department said young people tend to forget about following health guidelines when hanging out with loved ones — which causes the virus to spread. 

“Friends may be hanging out in an apartment or in a dorm.” Tolman-Hill said. “Even though we think, ‘My friends are very careful about what they do’, really what we’re doing and what students are doing is just exposing themselves even further.”

An analysis by the Deseret News found COVID-19 test positivity rates on Utah’s college campuses can range anywhere from 1-9%. 

Tolman-Hill said she believes asymptomatic spread shows the need for people to take precautions during the holiday season. 

“That transmission does not stop within the household,” Tolman-Hill said. “It impacts the entire community and, ultimately, it is going to –and has been — affecting our healthcare system.” 

It’s not just college students who are reporting little to no COVID-19 symptoms. 

Dr. Carlos Gomez, a physician at the University of Utah’s Division of Infectious Disease, said during a news conference Wednesday that asymptomatic spread is common in the community. 

“There is a 40% rate of asymptomatic infection,” Gomez said. “So, it’s difficult to tell at this point who is infected with the virus or not.”

As for college students, Gov. Gary Herbert recently ordered all students who either live on campus or take at least one class there to do weekly testing beginning in January