Frequent COVID tests key to college reopening: experts

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Frequent COVID tests key to college reopening: experts

(HealthDay)—Regular testing to catch ‘silent’ COVID-19 unfold amongst college students can be key to safely reopening faculties this fall, campus an infection management experts say.

Extensive modeling means that testing college college students for COVID each two to three days utilizing a low-cost, much less correct could be the most effective technique for campuses to safely reopen this fall, in accordance to analysis led by David Paltiel, a professor of well being coverage on the Yale School of Public Health.

“What really is concerning me are the many schools out there that are considering the option of not doing any testing, but of simply monitoring students for symptoms of COVID and using those signs and symptoms of illness to trigger testing, isolation, contact tracing and quarantine,” Paltiel mentioned throughout a HD Live! interview.

“We explored thousands of scenarios in our simulation model, and we did not find even one plausible circumstance under which that strategy would be sufficient to contain an outbreak. You simply cannot catch up with this virus,” Paltiel famous.

Most universities are contemplating much less in depth COVID-control measures than these known as for by Paltiel and his colleagues.

For instance, University of California, San Diego plans to check college students as soon as a month, coupled with different monitoring strategies designed to catch the coronavirus earlier than an outbreak happens, mentioned Natasha Martin, an infectious illness modeler with the college.

“That was based on our simulations indicating that level of testing would allow us to identify outbreaks early. We want to detect outbreaks early, and we feel like we have the test capacity and the situation in place to do that,” Martin mentioned throughout the identical HD Live! interview.

Despite their variations, each Paltiel and Martin agreed that some degree of proactive testing is required to cease the virus in its tracks and forestall a campus shutdown.

“If you’re trying to understand why that might be, a lot of it has to do with the asymptomatic spread of the disease and the fact that it can be transmitted by asymptomatic so-called ‘silent spreaders,'” Paltiel mentioned. “It’s very hard to play catch-up with this virus. You want to get out ahead of it, and the best way to do that is to screen with high frequency.”

One revolutionary method UC San Diego plans to use is to check the wastewater flowing from college dorms and residences for indicators of COVID-19 , Martin mentioned.

The college hopes that wastewater monitoring “can give us an early signal in terms of if there’s viral activity or infections within a specific dorm, and then we can go in and do more widespread testing to identify those infections and act on them,” Martin defined.

Colleges want to plan for outbreaks, closures

Paltiel mentioned his method overlaps with Martin’s within the “view that one has to hit this early, hit it onerous, acknowledge the silent spreaders, check incessantly, cease an outbreak in its tracks earlier than it begins, acknowledge that nothing you do goes to be excellent and due to this fact you are going to have to each put aside ample isolation capability and have an exit technique.

“My difficulty is that many schools are planning as if everything that could possibly go wrong is going to go right,” Paltiel mentioned. “They aren’t giving themselves enough wiggle room.”

Both experts mentioned it’s inevitable that there can be COVID-19 infections on campus, so faculties have to be outfitted with plans to management infections and, within the worst case, effectively and safely shut down.

“I think every university needs to plan an exit strategy and have a criterion that says this is when we are out of control and we really need to move to a plan where we shut the school down,” Paltiel mentioned.

One potential constructive is that an early pilot run of UC San Diego’s plan discovered strong pupil buy-in for testing and COVID management, Martin mentioned.

“One of the very strong messages we learned from them is they wanted to know this testing was part of a broader public health program, that it was something everybody was engaged with to keep the campus as safe as possible and to enable some amount of in-person activities on campus,” Martin mentioned. “They were less interested in the idea they would know their status or that they would be testing for themselves. They really wanted the message to be about the broader public good, which it is.”

Given that pupil help, it is now the job of universities which might be reopening to promote methods and choices that can hold college students engaged on-campus in protected methods, Paltiel mentioned.

“The schools can’t just hand out a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer and maybe a leaflet and wag their fingers at the students and say ‘behave,'” Paltiel mentioned. “That’s simply setting them up to fail. It’s additionally setting them up to be scapegoated on the finish if one thing does go awry.

“We’re the grownups in the room,” Paltiel continued. “We have a responsibility to provide them with resources and with imaginative, compassionate, realistic low-risk options to stay socially connected, to get the that they richly deserve and that they need, and to make the on-campus social event sufficiently attractive that it discourages them from wanting to head down the road to do Jell-O shots in the basement of the frat house, which is what I really want to avoid.”

Colleges additionally want to listen to the encircling group when managing their COVID-control methods, Martin added.

Colleges “need to be thinking about what their capacity is on campus, but also what the situation is in their local community and really assessing it week by week to ensure they feel they are in the right position to reopen,” Martin mentioned.


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UC San Diego has extra about its campus reopening strategy.

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Frequent COVID tests key to college reopening: experts (2020, August 12)
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