A study published in the journal JAMA Network Open revealed that in order for college campuses to open in the fall, college students must be screened for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, every two days. The researchers found that even using a low-quality test with 70% accuracy would help keep infections lower than testing weekly with a more expensive test.
According to CNN, if students strictly adhered to safety guidelines including wearing masks and hand washing, testing could be done with less frequency. The researchers also suggested that colleges use tests with high specificity to reduce the number of false-positives that result from multiple screenings. If campuses can’t institute these measures, they shouldn’t reopen, said the lead researcher of the study.
“Our view is that if you can’t see your way toward at least minimal meeting of these screening standards or maintaining control over prevention, then a school really needs to ask itself if it has any business reopening,” said A. David Paltiel. MBA, Ph.D., professor of Public Health at Yale School of Medicine.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CNN that she believes that the students should be screened with tests that swab the inside of their cheeks and deliver quick results, much like a pregnancy test.
She added that testing should begin aggressively once students return to campus to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19. As colleges plan to reopen, experts warn that they face challenges unlike other American institutions. According to The New York Times, it is difficult to contain the coronavirus in a young, impulsive population that wants to mingle and party together, study together, and even sleep together.
Paltiel said that colleges should act as the “adults in the room” and find ways to encourage youthful socialization while adhering to safe distancing guidelines.
“I think we need to be really careful to set students up to succeed rather than setting them up to fail, and later to scapegoat them for what went wrong,” Paltiel told CNN.
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