Experts say colleges need to ramp up coronavirus testing in order to reopen

Experts say colleges need to ramp up coronavirus testing in order to reopen
Posted at 9:48 PM, Jul 31, 2020

Colleges are trying to figure out how students can safely get back to school, as more schools are choosing to go online only for the fall.

For colleges that will have students on-campus, a big question is how testing could work. This week, Maryland's state universities are some of the latest to say they will test students if they can't prove they had a negative test within 14 days of arriving on-campus

Researchers from Yale, Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital have a model of what they say needs to happen for campuses to reopen.

It includes testing students every two days along with strict social distancing measures

“There are still schools out there who think they can get by with symptom-based monitoring,” said David Paltiel of Yale Public Health. “That is waiting until a student develops symptoms before springing into action. We have run simulations and scenarios over and over again. We have yet to find a single one where that is good enough.”

Experts believe screening frequency is more important than test accuracy. But they say daily testing could lead to false positives. They think testing every two days will cost $470 per student per semester.

“Any school that cannot see how it's going to reasonably implement a program of frequent screening alongside a program of social distancing really has to ask itself if it has any business reopening,” Paltiel said.

Vassar College President Elizabeth Bradley looked at how the model would work for them. She wrote in the journal JAMA they would have a controllable number of infections, even if they only tested students every four weeks.

They would also use social distancing, masks, and contact tracing. Students would need a negative COVID-19 test before they move in.