Colleges and universities should try their best to isolate students infected with Covid-19 on campus rather than sending them home, so that they don’t infect other students or take the virus home with them, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday.
With students coming from all over the country, colleges and universities can be especially important in spreading the virus, Fauci said during an event sponsored by Research! America.
“You send them back to their community, you will in essence be reseeding with individuals who are capable of transmitting infection, many communities throughout the country,” Fauci said. “So it’s much, much better to have the capability to put them in a place where they could comfortably recover.”
Colleges and universities are handling Covid-19 in different ways, he said, with some going completely online. Several he has spoken with are testing everybody once, the first time they come onto the campus, so that they start off with a baseline. Then they are doing surveillance testing at various intervals.
“The ones who are doing that and who have the capability of handling students who ultimately get infected seem to be successfully being able to open,” he said. Colleges that cannot sequester students tend to be doing much more virtual or online teaching.
K-12 schools are much more of a local issue, Fauci said. The prudent approach, he said, is to decide how to reopen depending on whether the community is in a green, yellow or red zone.
Green zone schools are able to open for in-person teaching with “relative impunity” as long as they are able to identify and make accommodations for infected students. Yellow zone schools have to be able to adjust and adapt, doing things like modifying the schedule. In red zone schools “you really better be very careful before you bring the children back because you don’t want to create a situation where you have a hyper-spreading event, as you might have in the school,” he said.