UTEP, NMSU say testing helps keep positive cases down

Local

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)–Local universities have been back to school for about two weeks, with the majority of classes online. UTEP and New Mexico State officials reported low positivity rates for COVID-19 at the respective campuses.

UTEP officials report 28 positive cases (26 students, 1 staff and 1 faculty) from its on-site testing, out of 4,264 validated test results for a positivity rate of .65%

“We are asking people not to come to campus if they’re sick so the UTEP Proactive Testing Program is to help identify people who may be sick and dont know it,” UTEP President Dr. Heather Wilson said.

If someone does test positive, the university notifies via email.

“It’s all automated with their ID card and they get an email and shortly after that someone from UTEP Environment Saftey and Health will call them and talk to them about what we would like them to do, resources available to them and that they should stay at home,” Wilson said.

UTEP said it buys its supplies with some of the CARES Act funds provided to the university.

UTEP’s testing program is available for free for students faculty and staff at several sites across campus.

Dr. Wilson attributes the low cases to increased testing, limited in-person instruction, but mostly to the students for taking it upon themselves to follow guidelines and wear face coverings.

“It’s just working, knock on wood, we didn’t issue rules and we just asked the communities and staff to help,” Wilson said.

For a list of schedule and locations at UTEP, click here.

Meanwhile, at NMSU, officials said they are planning a new large-scale random sample testing system.

“Next week we will be starting a surveillance program which will be randomly selecting about 250 people a week to participate in random sampling across our campus,” Lori McKee, the Executive Director of Health and Wellness at NMSU, said.

This new testing study will provide NMSU leaders with real-time data to inform their decision-making for the university when it comes to resuming on-campus academic and business operations.

McKee said it providing testing through the state’s Department of Health. NMSU reports 113 tests were administered the first week of school with only one positive case from that batch. This weeks results from 128 tests were not readily available.

“We do have a very robust reporting structure on campus so as soon as any employees or students that have a positve they need to report it to us at the Aggie Health and Wellness Center for tracing also on our campus,” McKee said.

McKee said NMSU reports a total of 64 student cases tracking back in May and 29 employee cases.

“As of now, only seven cases are active and two of those are in students that are isolated in housing,” McKee said.

NMSU also launched a new dashboard to help students and staff track virus data on campus.

To access the dashboard, click here.

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