Story at a glance

  • Mandatory testing measures are becoming commonplace among college students.
  • School officials hope to prevent outbreaks on campus as students will likely interact with outsiders.

Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has formally advised against traveling for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday amid the recent COVID-19 outbreak, the pilgrimage home will likely be undertaken by many Americans, especially college students. 

In light of this, multiple schools are advising traveling students to take COVID-19 tests prior to returning home where they could potentially aid further virus transmission. 

The Associated Press reports that schools are implementing controls to reduce virus transmission from traveling students. 


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“The responsibility and the reach of the impact is not just to the student body anymore, it’s to those close contacts,” Emily Rounds, a student who works for the Crisis College Initiative at Davidson College, told reporters.

Many are instituting mandatory testing, such as the University of Notre Dame, Vanderbilt University, along with the public university system of New York, who will forbid students that did not complete a COVID-19 test from registering for upcoming classes.

Some schools, however, like the University of Pittsburgh, won’t require students to take a COVID-19 test before they leave, worried a test could give a false negative. 

“They are immediately going to get together with their high school friends and their families, and there is going to be a lot of outbreaks,” said John Williams, the director of the University of Pittsburgh's COVID-19 Medical Response Office.

A plethora of other institutions are implementing similar measures. The University of Illinois reportedly runs around 10,000 saliva tests daily, and an app reminds students to get tested and helps in contact tracing efforts. 

Providing these tests is a costly effort, however, and many schools look toward their state and federal government for financial assistance. For schools that do not have the funds to provide frequent testing or the medical staff to administer the tests, they are left with little recourse.

“It can’t just be this narrative of blaming students and administrations ... I really think, at this point, we need to look to state governments and the federal government to have some responsibility,” Rounds added. “So many cases of COVID in the United States are coming from higher ed institutions — that should be a point of target for interventions.”


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Published on Nov 20, 2020