Students can return to campus, but only if this precaution is put in place

Up until relatively recently, the job market was not a welcoming place for job seekers without degrees.

While this is still true to a certain extent, a rush of Millennials reared on the importance of higher-education has effectively diluted its primary intent.

In other words, if everyone has a degree, the advantages of having one just as soon yield to mass debt and under-employment.

The opposing sides of this debate have become increasingly active in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, several universities around the nation announced that they will begin their semesters with online courses. This understandably left many would-be freshmen and parents unsure of how to proceed with admissions.

Harvard will allow 40% of its 6,700 undergraduates to live on campus with relevant precautions in place.

If campuses are too dangerous to house new students, what kind of countermeasures can revive the traditional college experience?

Well, we once again turn to the leading voices of the medical community to gain perspective.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Open Network, and conducted jointly by researchers from the Yale School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and Massachusetts General Hospital propose routine testing as a possible solution.

More discreetly electing testing every two to three days for students wishing to attend on-location classes safely.

“This analytic modeling study of a hypothetical cohort of 4990 college-age students without SARS-CoV-2 infection and 10 students with undetected asymptomatic cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection suggested that frequent screening (every 2 days) of all students with a low-sensitivity, high-specificity test might be required to control outbreaks with manageable isolation dormitory utilization at a justifiable cost,” the authors wrote in the new paper. “The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic poses an existential threat to many US residential colleges; either they open their doors to students in September or they risk serious financial consequences.”

Cluster spreading remains the most pressing obstacle in our fight to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmissions rates in the US. The vitality of this obstacle is being staffed by college-aged demographics; around 40% of young carriers never exhibit symptoms even though the can shed as much viral material as anyone else in the early stages of infection.

To keep young students from propagating the novel coronavirus, frequent testing is key. It’s basically impossible to get every student to act uniformly with respect to social distancing practices, so the best universities can do is get a tight grip on case numbers as early as possible with little room for error.

 “Colleges aren’t going to be able to create a hermetically sealed, walled garden,” the study’s lead author, A. David Paltiel, a professor at Yale’s school of public health explained in a media release. “We assumed that once in a while students would go to a face-to-face party or a dining hall worker who traveled on the subway would come into contact with a student or somebody would cough on a student.”

Ideally, Universities will be able to administer and process tests with a 24-hour window, for somewhere between $25-$30 per test–though this may prove challenging for underfunded institutions.

“We’re setting an exceptionally high bar,” Dr. Paltiel continued. “The recommendations are logistically very difficult to adhere to and they impose a financial burden on universities. Frankly they may be beyond the capacity of most universities.”

If nothing else, a goal post has been established. If Harvard’s plan translates to actual success, a road forward is that much clearer.