Colleges and Their Take on COVID-19 Testing

Student woman with protective mask applying hand sanitizer avoiding covid-19 sitting on a desk at home

Higher education institutions are speeding up their plans for coronavirus testing as part of their reopening protocols in the hope to reassure the students, families, faculties, and staff that everything is safe. But federal officials alerted that they may overwhelm the laboratories that process tests for medical facilities.

Alex Azar, Health and Human Services secretary, confirmed that the sheer number of institutions already made agreements with commercial labs can overload the system. He suggested that these colleges could perform the testing in their respective labs, particularly in those major research universities.

One of the crucial elements in the schools’ safety guidelines for reopening is virus testing. The majority of them reduce their class size, minimize dorm capacity, obligate wearing masks, and prohibiting huge social gatherings. Through the testing, school officials are targeting ill students and immediately place them in isolation areas to stop potential disease transmission.

It has been months now that leaders of higher education institutions debated about the testing as part of safe reopening. However, sparse guidance from government officials, colleges have different approaches that are primarily relying on either their state agencies or from research done by their respective health experts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged the schools to focus on students showing symptoms. Extensive testing is more advisable on areas with high transmission rates. However, some university researchers have contradicting views saying that depending on symptoms alone is insufficient. Some young individuals may already be carrying the virus but don’t feel sick. Hence, it isn’t easy to monitor such cases.

Furthermore, handling cases of COVID-19-positive students who arrive on campus and confirming the state of their health is yet another major issue for the school. Other students have been asked to undergo testing before coming to the campus. Despite the testing, colleges had seen widespread of the virus among the athletes and students when they came back in summer.

Read the full report from the Portland Press Herald.