5 US Colleges & Unis That Should Be the Blueprint for Handling COVID
Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that the Coronavirus can easily spread in communal living and gathering places. This makes colleges and universities one of the many dangerous places to be in during these times.
In fact, the educational institutions were among the first to close during the pandemic. And consequently, students found themselves relying on professional college essay writing service like Essaypro to keep up with the demands of a stressful shift to online classes. And later, when the college reopens for students for the fall term in 2020, most deaths reported were among college employees. In other words, it is not just the students at risk in universities.
However, a number of colleges in the US have expertly handled the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. Here is an account of how these institutions adapted to the situation.
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North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro
- Number of Students: 8,000 living in and around campus
- Safety Measures: Mandatory masks, contact trading, social distancing in dining halls, restrictions for gatherings, wastewater testing, upgraded HVAC systems
NC A&T was one of the colleges that struggled to keep up with the demands of COVID-19 at first. When the campuses reopened for the first time, the institution could afford to test only symptomatic students. Moreover, it took up to six days to get the results.
However, the college was quick enough to revamp its strategy. It happened after the campus received antigen tests via the US Department of Health and Human Services grant. This expedited the process of identifying more cases, even among asymptomatic people.
Later on, the university also restricted in-person socializing, especially during holiday seasons. In addition, the health center staff also educated students on how to interpret results. This helped to identify false negatives from antigen tests.
Sarah Lawrence, New York
- Number of Students: 1,400
- Safety Measures: Mandatory masks, contract tracing, social distancing, surveillance testing
By November 2020, the ambiance of the liberal arts college Sarah Lawrence was almost back to normal, with only 11 cases reported on campus. However, achieving this took some strategic planning.
By the time students returned to campus, the college had already received a makeover, making it nearly invincible from the outside.
The number of the student population living on campus was also reduced from 84% to 35%, among which most were freshmen. And they, too, had to take a PCR test and provide results within two weeks of arrival.
Additionally, these students also had to go through surveillance testing. This was conducted every month throughout the semester.
The dorm room structure was also changed to single-student occupancy from what used to be double or even triple at times. The school had even assigned rooms for quarantines. Additionally, the campus layout has also reworked the pedestrian traffic flow by changing the entrances and exits.
To top things off, all the buildings were locked, and only those with key cards had access.
University of Washington, Seattle
- Number of Students: 1,000
- Safety Measures: Mandatory masks, contract tracing, social distancing, event restrictions.
The University of Washington was one of the many colleges that suffered a fraternity outbreak. But the college was quick on its feet to learn its lesson. All 25 fraternity houses were quarantined the very same day. And in the next two days, there was a medical site equipped to test every resident.
This summer experience helped them to prepare for fall by enforcing strict guidelines. The colleges also held regular meetings with the local public health department and gave students the opportunity to attend webinars.
Rice University, Houston
- Number of Students: 3,000
- Safety Measures: Mandatory masks, PCR Testing, surveillance testing
Rice University was one of the few colleges that prepared well in the Summer to welcome the student intake in the fall. The university had partnered with two testing centers, Baylor Genetics and Houston Methodist Hospital, for a 24-hour turnaround on test results.
From the Summer itself, students had helped in preparing educational materials on COVID-19. They had also set up a disciplinary system that incentivizes those who followed the rules. By the fall semester, about 130 student violations were reported, both inside and outside the campus.
RIce University had also prepared student health ambassadors, and thanks to these efforts, there was not a single day that the campus saw over six positive cases.
Colorado Mesa University, Grand Junction
- Number of Students : 10,000
- Safety Measures: Random weekly tests, Mandatory masks, PCR Testing, surveillance testing, Wastewater testing, temperature checks, occupancy check of high-traffic areas
Students enrolled in the Colorado Mesa University had to test negative before they returned to campus. And once they arrived, rapid LAMP tests were organized at random intervals, and PCR tests for anyone who had been exposed to the virus.
The college had set up social media campaigns and encouraged students to form council bodies monitoring activities on campus. There were several restrictions in place including a limit of 20 students on a sports team.
Students were also divided into small groups called “mavilies.” Within this group, they were allowed to eat together, and other restrictions were made lenient. This allows many campus activities to continue without coming to a complete halt.
If you look at the colleges that did not have any serious outbreaks, most of them had the advantage of being relatively isolated. By this, we mean that they were located in rural areas or with less access to the public.
However, the trick was to ensure that outside infections did not enter the campus. Those colleges and universities that had a solid testing program and had enforced strict guidelines were able to contain the outbreak to a large extent.
In this regard, colleges have to work to provide the resources and facilities within campus, so students do not have to venture outside unnecessarily. While the college administration’s are hugely important, students also play their part in avoiding the spread of the pandemic and taking responsibility for their actions.