Trump administration recommends against universities requiring COVID-19 tests for returning students

Trump administration recommends against universities requiring COVID-19 tests for returning students
© Bloomeberg/Pool

The Trump administration said Thursday it is not recommending universities require students be tested for COVID-19 before they head back to campus this fall.

“In general, testing people before going back to the university … is not a strategy that we recommend, nor does the CDC recommend, because you're only negative for that one moment,” Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services who is in charge of COVID-19 testing strategy, told reporters.

“You could be positive the next day and it doesn't relieve any responsibility about wearing a mask and doing all those kinds of things,” he added.

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Universities across the country are taking various approaches to coronavirus testing. Some are requiring tests for students before they arrive on campus, while others plan to test students after their arrival. Some schools say they plan to regularly test students and staff.

Giroir said schools should use surveillance testing that would only test a random percentage of students. That could be done through pool testing, Giroir said, in which samples from several people are combined and then tested together instead of individually.

Pool tests that come back positive are followed by individual tests for everyone in the group, while negative pool tests are cleared.

“Nothing's a perfect solution, but it does not burden the health care system. It lets colleges keep control of how they want to do it,” he said.

The U.S. testing system is becoming increasingly strained, with turnaround times for results becoming longer as demand grows.

Giroir stressed that needs may be different for universities in hotspots.

“A lot depends on what the rates are in the community and the specific demographics of your university,” he said.