BYU-Idaho students caught contracting coronavirus to donate plasma for cash will be 'suspended,' school says

It's not the first time the student body has received a COVID-19 warning

Brigham Young University-Idaho officials warned students that they will be suspended and possibly “permanently dismissed” if they are found to have intentionally exposed themselves or others to COVID-19 after the school received word that people were looking to purposely contract the novel coronavirus in hopes of getting paid for plasma donations.

“The contraction and spread of COVID-19 is not a light matter,” a BYU-Idaho warning posted on Monday, said. “Reckless disregard for health and safety will inevitably lead to additional illness and loss of life in our community. As BYU-Idaho previously cautioned, if recent trends in Idaho and Madison County continue, the university may be forced to move to a fully-remote instruction model. 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.”

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The school said it recognizes the pandemic has caused emotional, physical and financial distress among its community, but that students should turn to resources on campus for help.

“If students are struggling, BYU-Idaho stands ready to help,” the statement said. “There is never a need to resort to behavior that endangers health or safety in order to make ends meet.”

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Several centers near the school have been offering up to $200 per donation for plasma with coronavirus antibodies. Vlasta Hakes, a spokeswoman for Grifols, told the Salt Lake Tribune that the compensation concept was meant to pay people for the time, not as a way to make quick cash.

“It’s ludicrous for anyone to get intentionally sick to donate plasma,” she told the news outlet.

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According to the FDA, patients who have already recovered from coronavirus may have antibodies in their blood, which is why they are encouraged to donate convalescent plasma. The FDA has issued an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma to be used in hospitalized COVID-19 patients and is being investigated for treatment of coronavirus.

“Based on scientific evidence available, the FDA concluded this product may be effective in treating COVID-19 and that the known and potential benefits of the product outweigh the known and potential risks of the product in hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” the health agency said.

The students of BYU-Idaho have already been warned once about possibility of shutting down campus due to COVID-19 spread. On Sept. 25, students were reminded that masks must be worn in public and physical distancing must be maintained.

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“Participating in large gatherings in parks, apartment complexes, dance parties, and other events where health and safety standards are not strictly observed is contrary to public health guidelines. If BYU-Idaho students refuse to comply with EIPH guidelines or take actions that put others at risk, campus privileges may be restricted,” the Sept. 25 statement read. “This could include not being able to attend class on campus, work on campus, or receive in-person campus services. It could also result in suspension and/or dismissal from the university.”

As of Monday, the university said 109 active COVID-19 cases among students, 22 cases among employees, and 309 in Madison County, where the school is located.