My son attends Georgia Tech, which has the state’s most robust campus-based COVID-19 testing program. He’s already been tested twice -- both negative -- as part of Tech’s push for weekly surveillance testing to contain the spread of the disease. As of Sunday, Tech performed 21,105 saliva tests with 395 confirmed positive for Covid-19 through follow-up diagnostic testing.
Most infected Tech students have experienced mild symptoms, and none has been hospitalized, said physician Benjamin Holton, senior director of Stamps Health Services, in a livestream presentation to Tech parents last week
My conversation with my Tech student focused on what he would do if he tested positive and had to isolate, or if he was exposed to an infected classmate and required to quarantine. Like many parents discussing this on social media, I told him he ought to come home, even though Tech has accommodations at the ready.
Tech is whisking students who test positive out of campus housing to isolate in nearby hotels. It’s also quarantining exposed students in hotel rooms or in empty dorm apartments. “Once you test positive, you can’t go back to campus,” said Tech spokesman Blair Meeks Monday. “We immediately take you to isolation housing, and, if you are a residential student, we will house you as long as you need.” Tech is delivering two meals a day to isolated and quarantined students, he said.
Of course, parents can take their students home to isolate or quarantine, said Meeks.
And that is what Tech would prefer, said Holton. “For both quarantine and isolation, we recommend students go home, if that’s at all possible,” he said. “Yes, there is some risk, but with most families, certainly not all families, a student could isolate and quarantine in a room by themselves and have access to a bathroom only they’re using. The number of people they could expose is much greater here than at home.”
An incentive for parents to house their kids at home: If Tech exhausts all its available space to isolate and quarantine students, that could contribute to a move to full remote learning, said Holton.
“That would be a factor in making the decision, absolutely,” said Holton, adding that Tech was looking to secure additional off-campus rooms to lessen that possibility. “If we max out all of that, that would be factor in whether we continue in-person classes or not.”
As is the case at UGA, Georgia College and the University of North Georgia, Holton said the spread of COVID-19 is not coming from classrooms. “It is occurring in social settings.”