An Idaho college says it is "deeply troubled" by reports that people in its community may have intentionally exposed themselves to the coronavirus in the hopes of being paid more for plasma donations that could contain COVID-19 antibodies.
BYU-Idaho, located in the southeastern town of Rexburg, says it is actively searching to find out if any of its students have done this.
"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 university said in a statement.
Some private blood banks pay more for plasma that contains COVID-19 antibodies.
The university cautioned last month that it may have to shut down the campus and switch to an all-remote learning format if a recent upward trend of COVID-19 cases in Idaho and Madison County continue.
The university says it realizes that the pandemic ls leading to strains on the community, including financial.
"There is never a need to resort to behavior that endangers health or safety in order to make ends meet," the university said, offering contact information for student resources.
Idaho currently ranks sixth in the country for new cases per capita, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, with more than 48,660 total confirmed cases of coronavirus statewide. So far more than 500 Idaho residents have died because of COVID-19.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.