Most of us here can agree that we wouldn’t say no to some extra pocket money. We’d also likely agree that helping to heal the sick, especially during times such as these, is also a good cause. But some college students in Idaho may have mixed the two a bit too much, according to local outlet KIVI-TV.
The Brigham Young University (BYU) Idaho recently put out a statement condemning a “deeply troubling” trend among its student body. According to the institution, some students may be intentionally trying to become infected with the coronavirus in order to overcome the disease and sell antibody-laden plasma.
“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,” BYU-Idaho explained in a statement.
The story likely began with local plasma centers saying they will pay extra for the blood of donors who have COVID-19 antibodies in their system. This move was prompted by the fact that Madison County (where the university is located) has the highest rates of COVID-19 cases in the county; last week, it was listed as a High-Risk area. As of Sunday evening, there were 326 active cases of COVID-19 in Madison County.
Convalescent plasma, which is harvested from people that have successfully fought off a COVID-19 infection, can be used to treat patients with the antibodies it contains. Transfusion centers in the area are thus making an effort to encourage former patients to donate, so that as many lives can be saved as possible.
Since then, the University has been receiving “reports of students […] intentionally exposing themselves to COVID-19” in order to sell convalescent plasma, according to KIVI-TV. A news release explains that the institution is “deeply troubled” by and strongly “condemns” this behavior, adding that it is “actively seeking evidence of any such conduct among [the] student body”.
“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,” it explained. “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.”
While seeking to get infected in the pandemic isn’t exactly responsible, or very smart, behavior, BYU acknowledges that “the physical, emotional, and financial strain of this pandemic is very real” on students, and that it is prepared to offer help.
Exactly how the BYU plans to determine which students actively sought out infection and which of them contracted COVID-19 unwittingly is still unclear. The story also raises questions regarding tuition fees in the wider USA. This could be seen as students feeling they lack viable alternatives to pay for their college, especially in today’s labor market — as one Reddit comment put it, they “gotta pay that tuition somehow”.
Alternatively, some could be doing it just as an easy way to make a quick buck. Regardless of the underlying intent, I think we can all agree that it endangers both them and the wider community. We all want to educate ourselves to the best of our ability, and we all like to pad up that bank account, but intentionally harming our health and potentially the lives of those around us shouldn’t be a way to pay for either.