LOGAN – When a new wastewater monitoring system at Utah State University identified elevated amounts of COVID-19 in four campus dormitories it led to the quarantine Sunday of all 287 students in those dorms.
Amanda DeRito, USU Director of Crisis Communications, said almost half of the those students were tested at Intermountain Healthcare facilities in Cache Valley Sunday and the remainder will go for tests Monday.
“Then they were also told to fill out the USU COVID questionnaire,” DeRito explained. “And what that does is activate our Care Team to reach out to them and find out what they need in terms of academic accommodations and resources.
“We’re organizing food deliveries for on-campus students, accounting for dietary restrictions and so forth, so we can support these students while they are asked to quarantine.”
A campus wide alert was sent out regarding the situation on Sunday afternoon. All of this happens as Monday is the first day of classes at USU.
“We did expect cases. What’s good here is we were able to get an early warning,” she added. “A lot of times we won’t know if there are positive cases until someone develops symptoms and then goes to get tested.
“So, with this we are able to actually see elevated levels in wastewater — even a few days before people start to develop symptoms. So it does give us a head start.”
All residents of Rich, Morgan, Jones and Davis Halls must quarantine until test results are returned, which may take up to 3-4 days. They must stay in their rooms, not attend classes and or interact with those outside their household.
DeRito said USU is one of five universities across the country with this monitoring system in place. Recently, the University of Arizona used the same wastewater sampling system to stop what could have been a large outbreak on the campus in Tucson.
She said USU is fortunate to have Professor of Biological Engineering Keith Roper leading a study which began July 1 to monitor COVID-19 infection trends at USU by analyzing sewage samples taken from on-campus student housing facilities.
USU has its own contact tracing team which has been training throughout the summer and is now ready to get started as information is made available to reach out and identify others who may have to quarantine.