REXBURG — Brigham Young University-Idaho has a strong message for students: do not intentionally expose yourself or others to COVID-19 in hopes of getting paid more for your plasma.
In an official notice emailed Monday, the university said it condemns the behavior and such actions leave administrators “deeply troubled.” The message stated the university is looking for evidence that such conduct is happening among the student body, EastIdahoNews.com reported.
“Students who are determined to have intentionally exposed themselves or others to the virus will be immediately suspended from the university and may be permanently dismissed,” the statement says.
Eastern Idaho Public Health spokeswoman Mimi Taylor said the health district has also heard rumors of such activity but have nothing to substantiate the alleged actions.
In an earlier EastIdahoNews.com story, local plasma centers did say they are paying more cash for those who actively have the COVID-19 antibody in their system.
Madison County, where BYU-Idaho is located, has the highest COVID-19 infection rate across the health district. As of Sunday evening, there were 326 active cases of COVID-19 in the county. Last week, a change in the health district’s COVID-19 response plan moved the area into the High-Risk level.
The outbreak is so bad that data collected and updated by the New York Times lists the Rexburg metro area as having the highest number of new cases, relative to its population, in the last two weeks.
“The contraction and spread of COVID-19 is not a light matter. Reckless disregard for health and safety will inevitably lead to additional illness and loss of life in our community,” the university statement says.
BYU-Idaho reiterated their warning that if the upward trend in COVID-19 cases continues in Idaho and Madison County, the university may have to move to a fully-remote instruction model. The school also threatened students with suspension or dismissal from school if they do not follow public health guidelines.
BYU-Idaho reports the number of COVID-19 cases among its campus community; however, how the data is collected remains unknown. The school has likely relied on self-reporting data and asked students to sign a non-mandatory waiver to allow EIPH to release positive results to the university.
As of Sunday evening, BYU-Idaho lists 105 students and 20 employees with COVID-19.
“We urge all members of the campus community to act respectfully and responsibly by observing all public health and university protocols and placing the well-being of others above personal benefit or convenience,” the email says.
The rise in cases in Madison County has also gained the attention of the White House coronavirus task force. In a report published Oct. 4, the task force recommended that BYU-Idaho “switch to online learning” as a result of the increase in cases. Many classes were moved online at the beginning of the semester but many courses are being held in-person.
A BYU-Idaho spokesman did not respond to EastIdahoNews.com’s request for comment.