BYU announces change to COVID-19 testing plan

BYU announced changes to its COVID-19 testing plan on Jan. 5. (Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

BYU announced changes to its Winter Semester COVID-19 testing plan on Jan. 5.

The university had originally planned to test students with in-person classes or on-campus residency every 14 days, whether students were symptomatic or not.

Instead, BYU has adopted a new testing plan developed by the Utah System of Higher Education. According to a message from University Communications, all students who live in on-campus housing or have in-person classes “are asked to take a COVID-19 screening test during the first 10 days of winter semester.” After the first 10 days, testing will be focused and random. Students who show symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in exposed to others with COVID-19 will also need to get tested.

The number of students randomly selected for testing will be determined by the number of eligible students on campus, the current infection rate, and “the desired range of detectable change in COVID-19 infection (the university hopes) to see from one week to the next,” according to the testing plan. Funding will be provided by the Utah Department of Health to help universities cover the cost.

The new testing plan stays this method of testing will use resources to focus on those most likely to be infected while still providing regular surveillance of the virus’ spread.

“It is also hoped that this will be less burdensome on students and that they will be more compliant with a testing model that uses randomized testing with focused follow-up on close contacts rather than ongoing mandatory testing throughout the entire semester,” the plan reads.

The new testing plan also encourages universities to conduct other testing — including wastewater testing, symptom check surveys, contact tracing and regular athletic testing — but does not require them to do so.

A message from President Kevin J Worthen released with the announcement encourages students to continue to wear masks inside campus buildings and outside within six feet of other individuals, to maintain physical distance around others outside their household, and to follow public safety and testing guidelines.

“This is not a ‘new normal,’” President Worthen said. “Demonstrating a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbor is actually written into our BYU mission statement. It’s who we are.”

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