Colleges Plan for Virus Testing, but Strategies Vary Widely

July 28, 2020 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce

Last modified July 29, 2020

A recent article in AP News discusses the various plans for colleges testing students for coronavirus as they come back to school this fall. For students heading to Colby College in Maine, coronavirus testing is expected to be a routine part of campus life. All students will be required to provide a nasal swab every other day for two weeks, and then twice a week after that. All told, the college says it will provide 85,000 tests, nearly as many as the entire state of Maine has since the pandemic started.

Colby, a private school of 2,000 students, joins a growing number of colleges announcing aggressive testing plans to catch and isolate COVID-19 cases before they spread. Harvard University says all students living on campus will be tested when they arrive and then three times a week. Boston University plans to test most students at least once a week.

But whether colleges should be testing every student — and whether there’s capacity for it — is a subject of debate. Some colleges plan to test students only if they show symptoms or come into close contact with someone who has tested positive. But some researchers say that approach could quickly cause outbreaks caused by students who don’t show symptoms. Additionally, as universities hurry to make plans for virus testing, federal officials are warning that they could overload labs that process tests for hospitals.

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