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Preventing Spread in College Dorms and Classrooms

OHL’s expert COVID guidance for preventing the spread of the virus in college dorms and classrooms.

College students have returned to campus, living and attending in-person classes — all while Omicron BA.5 remains prevalent, and we begin another academic year of living with COVID. So it continues to be critical that higher education leaders and decision makers stay up to date on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and your local doctors and public health officials.

New Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

In their latest guidance, the CDC “recommends a strategic approach to minimizing the impact of COVID-19 on health and society that relies on vaccination and therapeutics to prevent severe illness” while using multiple safety measures to prevent spread where possible and while continuing to protect those at highest risk.

The short answer to this question is simple: be smart, says Mike Smith, senior director for human diagnostics at Biomeme, the parent company of One Health Labs.

The (Almost) Return to Pre-COVID Normal

Now that we have effective vaccines and easy access to accurate testing, colleges and universities can expect to “conduct business as the pre-COVID normal,” says Smith — or something pretty close to it. The best way to do this is for students to protect themselves by getting vaccinated; even as new variants evade vaccine protection, the vaccine still prevents individuals from experiencing intense symptoms — keeping college health centers and local hospitals from being overwhelmed.

What If a Student Tests Positive?

Any student who was exposed to the virus should get a PCR test right away — and campus leaders can help students by making PCR testing easily available. “If you have been around someone who tests positive or you think has been exposed, go to the university health center for a PCR test, which should be covered by student insurance,” Smith says. A PCR test will detect the presence of the virus before an individual has symptoms, “so this way you will know what you need to do to prevent the people from becoming infected,” says Smith.

When a student tests positive, they should:

  • Immediately isolate themselves, as much as possible.
  • Inform their close contacts so that they can choose how to protect themselves
  • Remain isolated for five days.
  • Monitor their symptoms and seek medical care if they worsen.
  • Leave isolation after five days if they feel well enough to be out and about, but continue to mask up for another five days.
  • Get tested after the 10-day mark to know when the virus is no longer present.

Ideally, institutions can offer online learning options for students who must isolate. If and when this is not possible and students attend class, they should wear a mask and socially distance themselves in consideration of others.

What If Isolating Isn’t an Option?

Colleges and universities do not have infinite resources, and when a wave of COVID sweeps the campus, isolation becomes difficult. If possible, roommates of a student who tests positive should stay somewhere else while their roommate isolates until they test negative.

But that will not always be possible.

In these cases, students should think about their level of risk. If they are vaccinated, they could still become infected because of how contagious subsequent strains of COVID have become. When one roommate is infected, all roommates are advised to wear masks when they are together and with others. If they are asymptomatic, they can also get a PCR test to see if they are infected.

For college and university leaders, One Health Labs is a full-service testing partner. No one wants campus life to come to a screeching halt during this academic year but being smart and proactive will help keep campuses and local communities safe.

“Whatever colleges and universities decide to do, we are here to support them, and we can help them in any way needed,” says Smith.

Looking for a partner to support campus COVID testing?

One Health Labs can help.

Let’s talk.