Dear Commons Community,
As colleges across the US try to mitigate outbreaks of the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci has some advice: Don’t send students home.
“It’s the worst thing you could do,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show. “When you send them home, particularly when you’re dealing with a university where people come from multiple different locations, you could be seeding the different places with infection.”
Fauci’s warning came as colleges are faced with a series of difficult decisions regarding the fall semester. Many schools, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame, have opted to suspend or delay in-person classes, with UNC asking students to cancel their housing contracts.
Other institutions, like the University of Alabama and the University of Iowa, have allowed students to remain on campus and continued to offer some in-person instruction despite massive increases in cases.
In a news conference over the weekend, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, issued a similar warning to college students considering returning home to quarantine.
“Please isolate at your college,” Birx said, per ABC News. “Do not return home if you’re positive and spread the virus to your family, your aunts, your uncles, your grandparents.”
Especially with Labor Day weekend coming up, she said students returning to their households could “dramatically” increase the spread of the virus.
In a call on Tuesday, Birx reiterated the message to governors. She instructed them to check in with university presidents about their plans to test, isolate, and care for students in the case of an outbreak, ABC News reported.
When UNC Chapel Hill began plans to de-densify their campus community after experiencing at least 135 new cases of COVID-19 during the first week of class, they asked everyone except for international students, student athletes, and “residents who have hardships” to cancel their fall housing contracts by August 25.
“Since August 18 and throughout the move-out process, the University has been using email, social media and other communication methods to recommend students complete a 14-day, self-imposed quarantine — even if asymptomatic — upon departing campus,” UNC Media Relations wrote in an email to Insider.
However, the terms of the quarantine were largely left up to the students, putting the responsibility on them to figure out where to go and how to pay for accommodations after leaving campus.
At Illinois State University, where there have been more than 750 positive test results in the past week, the administration has asked students living in residence halls to return home to quarantine if they test positive for COVID-19, rather than living in quarters with other students, said media relations director Eric Jome.
However, the majority of Illinois State students live off campus, Jome said, and, as such, will be allowed to quarantine in their residences if they test positive. Additionally, the school is reserving some on-campus housing for students who need to isolate but cannot return home.
We need to listen to Dr. Fauci. He is one of the few people in Washington D.C. you an trust to tell the truth about the pandemic.