As students and faculty return to campus amidst the continuing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of new variants, it remains crucial for colleges and universities to take proper precautions to maintain population health and safety. The greatest challenge schools face with COVID-19 is a combination of testing and controlling the spread of the virus in a setting where many people are asymptomatic spreaders.
While the COVID-19 landscape varies across states and campuses, following updated considerations and mitigation strategies and required and recommended actions will enable students and faculty to return to school safely. Regular COVID-19 testing remains critical in detecting asymptomatic cases and protecting students from outbreaks.
The current state of COVID-19
The virus that causes COVID-19 is constantly changing through mutation. Most coronavirus variants and subvariants emerge and disappear without significantly changing the pandemic’s overall direction. New variants will continue to emerge, so getting vaccinated and boosted is key to preventing the virus from spreading and mutating.
COVID-19 affects everyone differently. While some people experience severe symptoms, others may not experience any symptoms. If no symptoms are apparent, it is known as asymptomatic COVID-19. People with COVID-19 can still pass the virus to others even if they do not have any symptoms. Regular COVID-19 testing is crucial for college campuses since young people are more likely to be asymptomatic . Since young people are more likely to have asymptomatic COVID-19 and can still transmit it, it is even easier for the disease to spread on campus.
Mitigation strategies for colleges and universities
Although college dorms, in-person classes, and social activities can increase the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks, implementing the proper safety protocols can help keep campuses safe. Research has shown that when schools use multiple prevention strategies, the spread of COVID-19 in schools is often lower than or on par with community spread . The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following prevention strategies for institutes of higher education :
- Consistent and correct use of masks
- Handwashing and respiratory etiquette
- Offer and encourage COVID-19 vaccination
- Maintaining healthy environments (increased ventilation and cleaning)
- Social distancing
- Staying home when sick and getting tested
- Testing for COVID-19
School policies will vary based on the COVID-19 Community Levels. These strategies provide flexibility so schools can adapt to changing local situations, including periods of increased community health impacts from COVID-19.
The continued importance of COVID-19 screening
Regular COVID-19 testing remains integral to keeping college students, faculty, and the surrounding community safe. Asymptomatic screening identifies people with COVID-19 who do not have symptoms and don’t have a known or suspected exposure to the virus. Screening programs enable schools to identify unknown cases of COVID-19 and take the necessary steps to prevent the further spread of the virus.
LetsGetChecked has partnered with colleges and universities to develop tailored COVID-19 testing programs to keep campuses healthy and safe. We understand that schools vary in their use of testing and may change requirements based on the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. Our team of experts will develop the right testing protocol to meet the unique needs of your population. We report results quickly. Our comprehensive, flexible, and scalable at-home COVID-19 testing solutions can help your students and faculty return to campus safely upon arrival and throughout the school year.