USHE COVID-19 Updates

Updated January 5, 2021, 12:21 p.m.

USHE releases COVID-19 testing plan for Utah colleges and universities

The Utah System of Higher Education released its COVID-19 Intensive Testing Plan today in accordance with the state’s most recent Public Health Order, 2020-27 Updated Statewide COVID-19 Restrictions, replacing the previous requirement to test students every 14 days. The updated health order and accompanying plan ensure flexibility for colleges and universities while using a more efficient testing model to mitigate virus spread among college students.

Read the full public health order.

“We worked closely with state public health leaders and those at Utah’s colleges and universities to develop a more refined approach to testing that requires fewer tests and greater flexibility for our institutions to focus on areas that will have the greatest impact,” said Dave R. Woolstenhulme, USHE Commissioner of Higher Education. “We are building on what we learned this past fall and are confident these steps will help keep our entire higher education community safe over the coming months. It’s important we stay vigilant in our efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 as we return for a new semester.”

Within the intensive testing plan, each public technical and degree-granting institution, as well as any private institution with more than 10,000 students, is required to implement a multi-layered testing strategy that involves continued symptomatic testing, initial testing for on-campus residents and students who attend class in-person, randomized surveillance testing, close-contact testing and focused hot-spot testing. 

The Utah Department of Health will monitor the number of tests performed by the institutions to ensure accurate distribution of tests. The institutions will report all test results through the designated UDOH reporting system.

Read the full higher education testing plan.

Updated December 21, 2020, 11:00 a.m.

Gov. Gary R. Herbert and Utah Department of Health issue updated COVID-19 testing requirement for Utah colleges and universities

The public health order states:

For the purposes of this Order, an institution of higher education, including a public or private degree-granting institution or technical college, is considered to be a business subject to Section (5). An institution of higher education is not subject to Section (5)(b)(i).

Beginning as soon as possible, but no later than January 1, 2021, a covered institution of higher education shall test enrolled students age 18 years or older who live in on-campus housing or attend at least one course that involves in-person instruction provided by the institution of higher education to identify students with current COVID-19 infection and determine campus COVID-19 infection trends in accordance with the intensive testing plan developed by the Utah System of Higher Education and approved by the Utah Department of Health.

Read the full public health order.

Updated November 8, 2020, 9:30 p.m.

Gov. Gary R. Herbert and Utah Department of Health issue weekly COVID-19 testing requirement for USHE students

Requirement comes as Gov. Herbert declares a new State of Emergency to address hospital overcrowding

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert and the Utah Department of Health released concurrent executive and public health orders today, including a requirement for all Utah System of Higher Education colleges and universities to test their students for COVID-19 weekly.

The public health order states:

“Beginning as soon as possible, but no later than January 1, 2021, students enrolled at public and private institutions of higher education, who either live on campus or attend at least one in-person class per week will be required to be tested for COVID-19 weekly.”

To support this testing requirement, USHE institutions will scale up weekly testing for their campus communities statewide. The total headcount at USHE institutions, including all technical colleges in the state, is roughly 230,000 students.

“We can reach a large portion of Utah’s population through our campus communities, and, through increased and consistent testing, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 in the State of Utah,” said Dave R. Woolstenhulme, Commissioner of Higher Education. “We are supportive of the requirement to test our students weekly for COVID-19, and we are in the position to make a positive impact.”

In collaboration with state and local leaders, public health departments, and education experts, the Utah System of Higher Education developed a set of “gating conditions” in May 2020 to define a path allowing colleges and universities to bring students back to campus in person and resume many campus operations for the fall 2020 semester. USHE colleges and universities, utilizing System and state guidance, have reviewed and modified their individualized plans throughout the fall semester to slow the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to offer high-quality education to Utah’s students.

Read the full announcement from the Utah Department of Health and the Office of the Governor.

Updated: May 27, 2020, 12:30 p.m.

USHE releases path for welcoming students back to campus for fall 2020

Individual public colleges and universities to release localized fall semester plans in the coming days

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah System of Higher Education COVID-19 Higher Education Task Force released a plan today outlining a path for Utah public colleges and universities to resume onsite operations for the fall 2020 semester amid COVID-19 uncertainty.

Utah colleges and universities have been largely operating remotely since the mid-March transition to online instruction. On-campus activity was significantly reduced, and Utah colleges and universities canceled or postponed end of year activities and events as part of their efforts to keep their campus communities as safe as possible.

In collaboration with state and local leaders, public health departments, and education experts, the Utah System of Higher Education developed a set of “gating conditions” to define a path allowing colleges and universities to bring students back to campus in person and resume many campus operations for the fall 2020 semester.

“Though we can’t fully predict what the fall will look like, we feel we are on a trajectory to welcome our students back to campus while taking necessary precautions,” said Dave R. Woolstenhulme, Interim Commissioner of Higher Education. “We have worked, and will continue to work, to be as adaptable in our plans as possible as we receive updated recommendations from state and federal leaders to ensure a safe environment for our students, faculty, staff, and broader communities.”

USHE proposes the following gating conditions as part of its guidelines for the fall 2020 semester:

  1. Disease Prevalence. The prevalence of the disease must be low enough to safely resume campus operations. For nonresidential campuses, as well as science labs, libraries, and many graduate programs, the gating criteria for business and commercial operations should apply. For residential undergraduate programs, public health officials recommend a sustained low and non-increasing rate of new hospitalizations in the state and in the local health districts surrounding each college.
  2. Diagnostic Testing Supplies. Higher education leaders must work with state leaders to ensure that colleges and universities have adequate supplies of diagnostic tests and adequate financial support to obtain, administer, and process them. Nonresidential institutions should be able to test symptomatic students, faculty, and staff. Residential institutions should also be able to test students upon arrival and at appropriate intervals thereafter in accordance with prevailing public health guidance. 
  3. Contact Tracing. Higher education leaders must obtain adequate resources and capacity for contact tracing to supplement local public health departments with on-campus efforts.
  4. Higher Education-Specific Health Guidelines. Colleges and universities should follow Utah’s specific public health guidelines for colleges and universities, including face coverings, physical distancing, and population densities of residence halls, dining facilities, and classrooms.
  5. Adequate PPE Supplies. Adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and face coverings must be available to public colleges and universities.
  6. Healthcare Surge Capacity. Adequate surge capacity must be available in nearby health care facilities and hospitals.
  7. Liability Protection. Utah has adopted an appropriate “safe harbor” from liability for those institutions that bring students back to campus and take reasonable steps to comply with state guidelines and complete the planning efforts outlined in this report.
  8. Institution Plan. Incorporating the guidance provided by the Utah Leads Together plan and state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance specific to higher education, each institution must develop a plan for onsite operations that includes the following four elements:
    1. A plan for repopulating the campus (likely a phased process).
    2. A plan for active monitoring of health conditions to ensure the detection of infection.
    3. A plan for containing and preventing the spread of the disease if detected.
    4. A plan for shutting down operations in the event it becomes necessary, either because of a serious outbreak on campus or statewide orders from the Governor.


Because of the diversity of each college and university in Utah, higher education leaders determined a “one-size-fits-all” approach was not appropriate. For this reason, Utah public colleges and universities, utilizing guidance from the System, will be releasing their individualized fall semester plans over the coming days.

Read the full set of System guidelines.

Updated: May 22, 2020, 12:00 p.m.

USHE institutions allocate nearly $50 million to students through institutional aid, CARES Act Funds

Colleges and universities in the Utah System of Higher Education are giving nearly $50 million directly to students to help with financial aid, emergency relief, and other supports during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of that funding, nearly $48 million has come from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. Through each institutions’ emergency fund program, more than $1 million has been available for eligible students across the System.

As outlined by the Department of Education, CARES Act emergency grants to students help cover student expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19 (including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care).

For those students who do not qualify for CARES Act funds, other support is available at each USHE college and university through emergency relief programs, which are funded privately by community donors, ongoing fundraising efforts and more.

“We want our students to know that assistance is available to help them with their student expenses, whether that be food, housing, or childcare,” said Dave R. Woolstenhulme, Interim Commissioner of Higher Education. “I applaud the Department of Education for promptly distributing these essential funds for our students and institutions. We hope these funds provide support to students at the right time so they are able to remain focused on their studies and complete their education.”

Institutions are still soliciting private donations to assist students through their individual emergency relief programs. For more information on where and how to donate, please contact the individual college or university. 

Institution Total CARES Allocation to Students Total Other Student Emergency Funds 
University of Utah  $9,362,665 $550,000
Utah State University  $8,714,373 $150,000
Weber State University  $5,857,113 $30,000
Southern Utah University  $2,812,348 $33,506
Dixie State University  $3,088,350 $80,000
Utah Valley University  $11,474,604 $55,137
Snow College $1,239,156 $20,000
Salt Lake Community College  $5,323,937 $127,670
USHE Total $47,872,546 $1,046,313

View more information about each institution’s efforts.

Updated: March 18, 2020, 3:00 p.m.

Utah’s public colleges and universities to postpone or cancel Spring 2020 commencement activities

Because of the public health emergency created by COVID-19, all Utah public higher education institutions will postpone or cancel their Spring 2020 commencement activities.

To protect the health of Utah communities, Governor Gary Herbert and the state’s COVID-19 Community Task Force have recommended limiting the size of group gatherings and to continue practicing social distancing. These changes to Spring 2020 commencement activities are in line with those recommendations.

More information is available on each institution’s website:

Updated: March 12, 2020, 1:15 p.m.

All USHE institutions are moving instruction online, as many courses as they can, and as quickly as they can, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. See each institution’s messaging for more information. 

All public colleges and universities are currently posting updates on their websites:

More updates and information from the USHE and K-12 press conference today can be found on Governor Gary R. Herbert’s Facebook page.
Also, see the statement from The Office of the Governor, including all of the recommendations from the press conference.

Updated: March 10, 2020, 11:00 a.m.

Guidance for USHE colleges and universities on COVID-19 campus-wide messaging

The Utah System of Higher Education asks all USHE institutions to consider the following guidance before disseminating messages to their campus community about COVID-19: 


  1. At the very least, use guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when considering messaging your campus or updating policies or practices. It is up to institutional leadership if the institution wants to go beyond those recommendations. 
  2. Provide USHE with a summary and/or draft of your campus-wide message at least one hour before you intend to send it. USHE will send those proposed messages to the Lt. Governor’s office and the Utah Department of Health for their review. (USHE serves as the liaison between USHE institutions and the state’s Utah COVID-19 Community Task Force, led by Lt. Governor Spencer Cox.)
  3. Track those in your campus community who are self-isolating. If they begin to exhibit symptoms, inform your institution’s local health department.
  4. Consider updating policies and practices regarding work from home opportunities and online/electronic course capacity.
  5. Disseminate prevention, awareness, and anti-stigma messaging regularly, as appropriate. See updates and sample messaging from other institutions in our shared folder

Updated: March 3, 2020 3:41pm

Utah System of Higher Education to coordinate planning efforts on COVID-19 at Utah’s public colleges and universities

Will report efforts to Governor Herbert’s Utah COVID-19 Community Task Force

SALT LAKE CITY – On March 2, 2020, Governor Gary R. Herbert announced the creation of the Utah COVID-19 Community Task Force, led by Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education will coordinate Utah’s public higher education planning and response, and work closely with the state task force to inform it of higher education’s efforts. As of Monday, there were no cases of the virus confirmed as contracted in Utah.

Many of Utah’s public colleges and universities have done substantial work in planning for a potential COVID-19 outbreak and informing their stakeholders of their efforts. The Commissioner’s Office has asked that each institution form a COVID-19 working group, if they have not yet done so, that will meet weekly and inform the Commissioner’s Office of their plans and progress. The Commissioner’s Office will share this information with the Governor’s task force. 

Each institutional task force will consider: 

  • Recently-released guidance for higher education institutions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Reviewing, updating, and implementing emergency operations plans, including on-campus housing protocols
  • Creating plans to communicate accurate and timely information to the campus community, including the creation of a hotline
  • Reviewing information sharing systems with partners, including local health care departments and local law enforcement
  • Monitoring and planning for absenteeism
  • Establishing procedures for students, staff, and faculty who are sick (with any illness) on campus
  • Ensuring campus health clinics prepare for COVID-19
  • Student, faculty, and staff travel, including study abroad programs
  • Capacity of existing networks, including online and electronic course possibilities
  • Any anticipated challenges, and how the State of Utah can assist with those challenges

“As always, our students’ safety is of the utmost priority for us,” said Dave R. Woolstenhulme, Commissioner of Higher Education. “Institutions
have worked hard to prepare for the possibility of COVID-19 coming to Utah. We are working diligently to ensure the best coordination between our office, our institutions, and the State of Utah for the health of all community members.”

The Commissioner’s Office itself will follow the University of Utah’s protocol, as the Office is located in the same general area and shares several services with the University. Updates on higher education coordination efforts can be found at 

All public colleges and universities are currently posting updates on their websites:

For more resources, see: