The College Campus Quarantine Question On 'Reopening America'


School is officially in session, and for colleges and universities, that has meant a lot of compromise. Many higher education institutions are offering virtual options, but when it comes to equipment and resources, many courses can’t be taught online, so students are being welcomed back to campus, pandemic or no. And many have seen predictable outbreaks in coronavirus cases, leading to students being quarantined on-campus. But several institutions have chosen to send students home on the advice of public health officials. The concern is that when the students go home, they’re spreading the virus to their own home and community, instead of containing it. Wouldn’t it be better to keep them on or near campus during their quarantine? Oscar Ramirez, host of the Reopening America podcast, talks with Wall Street Journal higher education reporter Melissa Korn about the pros and cons of quarantining on campus.

As with nearly everything related to the coronavirus pandemic, schools are approaching the problem with a variety of solutions: Some are testing all their students, asymptomatic and not, while others are only requiring testing if students start experiencing symptoms. When outbreaks occur, some schools are shutting down their facilities and sending kids home in order to “de-densify,” but they aren’t always testing the students, so they could be carrying the infection home with them. And if they don’t have symptoms, they don’t quarantine at home, which could lead to community spread. 

While it might seem obvious that the solution is to keep the kids on-campus, it’s not that simple: Some schools are simply running out of quarantine space, or seeing staff and faculty succumb to infections they can take home to their families. There’s also concerns for the mental health of the students, Melissa points out: “Sitting in a room alone for 14 days is really difficult. It’s trying, it’s exhausting, it’s mentally draining and a very strange experience for an 18-19 year old…. For some of these students it was big picture ‘healthier’ for them to do that at home.” Hear more about this issue and how it’s being addressed on this episode of Reopening America.

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