Idaho’s Brigham Young University has urged students to refrain from purposely infecting themselves with the coronavirus in hopes of cashing in on payments for plasma donations, threatening expulsion for those caught doing so.

“BYU-Idaho is deeply troubled by accounts of individuals who have intentionally exposed themselves for others to Covid-19, with the hope of getting the disease and being paid for plasma that contains Covid-19 antibodies,” the school said in a recent notice.

The university condemns this behavior and is actively seeking evidence of any such conduct among our student body. 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.

Though the school did not indicate it was aware of any specific examples of the phenomenon, Eastern Idaho Public Health spokeswoman Mimi Taylor has noted hearing similar rumors, according to the Idaho Statesman. Local blood banks have also begun offering cash payments in exchange for plasma containing coronavirus antibodies, some handing out up to $200 per donation.

The university acknowledged that the “financial strain of this pandemic is very real” for many on campus at BYU-Idaho, but pleaded with students to seek out aid from the school, adding “there is never a need to resort to behavior that endangers health or safety in order to make ends meet.”

BYU-Idaho is located in Madison County, which has reported the highest coronavirus infection rate in the area and was recently categorized as “high-risk” by health officials, the Statesman reported. There are currently some 326 active cases in the county – 131 of them at the school itself – out of a total of nearly 50,000 infections statewide.

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