In order to keep campuses open, frequent COVID testing needed, study shows

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Channel 2 Action News found people waiting at least an hour in line waiting to get a test Thursday

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Tests have long been a staple in the world of academia, but as colleges across the country prepare to start a new year amid a pandemic, tests of a different kind will be essential in keeping campuses open, a new study notes.

That is: testing for COVID-19 and a lot of it. The study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, found that frequent screening of all students will be essential in order to keep campuses open in the age of coronavirus.

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The researchers at Yale University acknowledge that the “pandemic poses an existential threat to many U.S. residential colleges; either they open their doors to students in September or they risk serious financial consequences.”

“University administrators struggling with this dilemma must nevertheless keep in mind that their first priority is the safety of the students in their care,” the Yale researchers write.

In order to reopen safely this fall, the experts recommend requiring screenings every two days and adhering to “uncompromising vigilance, and continuous attention to good prevention practices.”

In the analytical model used by the researchers, they determined that screening every two days using a rapid test, coupled with strict behavioral measures like mandatory indoor masks and frequent hand washing is the best bet to “maintain a controllable number of COVID-19 infections and permit the safe return of students to campus.”

The model was based on a hypothetical group of 5,000 students in which 10 test positive for COVID-19 and looked at ways to best minimize the infections while putting as low a financial strain as possible on the institutions, which is how they arrived at the frequent testing recommendation.

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Of course, this plan also poses some potential challenges for campuses across the country. And it does require that students comply with the plans and practices.

“There are many uncertainties, including the logistics of deployment; the ease and comfort of sample collection; and the accuracy, scalability, turnaround time, and cost of test kits,” the study notes.

The good news is that the researchers say that they do “believe that there is a safe way for students to return to college in fall 2020.”

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