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Handling an Outbreak: College Taking Unique Approach to Coronavirus Cases

Posted at 7:52 AM, Aug 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-08 07:52:00-04

LANSING, Mich. — Thousands of colleges students across the country are preparing to return to campus, but, will your child be safe in a crowded dorm room? Chris Conte takes a closer look at new research that is helping colleges come up with detailed COVID testing plans, to return safely back to school.

It is hard not to notice the empitness consuming colleges and universities right now. Long ago forced to send students home because of the virus.

They do need that personal contact, they want to know who their professor is. But Tufts University President Anthony Monaco is preparing for students to return..

And he's doing everything possible to make sure COVID doesn't come with them.

We wanted to test for COVID at a frequency that would catch people when they’re asymptomatic, every student who returns to campus will have to take a COVID test.

With five thousand students expected, Tufts is also expecting a number of those tests to come back positive.

Which is where these modular dorm rooms come in.

Any student who tests positive for COVID will be quarantined here for two weeks.

The idea, is to keep the virus from spreading

Universities face an existential question here, many of them either open their doors or they face financial collapse that could close their doors permanently

That is David Paltiel. A researcher at Yale. He's been using epidemic modeling to guide higher education institutions on reopening.

Here's what he found.

If you take 5,000 healthy students.

Then throw in 10 other students who have COVID and test only students when students have symptoms.

Hundreds if not thousands of kids will be sick by Thanksgiving.

BUT ... take those same 5,000 kids.

Throw in 10 students who have COVID ... test every student TWICE a week.

AND isolate those who are sick ... only about 100 students will end up catching COVID this fall.

You need to be testing frequently in order to get ahead of the silent spreading, the asymptomatic spreading.

And even if a university goes entirely online, 40 percent of kids will likely return to apartments around campus.

So many schools would rather those students be on campus, where they can be supervised and tested frequently.

It’s hard and it could be a nightmare, people who say we shouldn’t open campuses should remember the nightmare doesn’t go away

So far Tufts and about 100 other colleges are using Paltiel's data and will be testing students bi-weekly.

All in hopes of getting "Safely Back to School."

They want to be here and they know that if they are going to be here, these measures are to keep everyone safe, not just themselves.

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