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Reopening higher ed will require greater testing and monitoring capabilities, according to study

Colleges and universities that open campuses for normal operations this Fall will need greater capabilities for large scale testing and tracking, a recent study has shown.

For months, higher education institutions have been carefully weighing whether it is feasible to reopen for on-campus classes this Fall, or if they should wait until after the new year when coronavirus cases have hopefully declined, or a vaccine is approved.

For many colleges and universities, in addition to the risks to health and safety, the prospect of putting off classes this Fall raises another substantial dilemma as they will face a significant financial blow.

In order to resume on-campus operations, recommendations from a study from the Yale School of Public Health published in the JAMA Open Network, found that colleges will need a high frequency of health testing and screening in addition to other precautions such as wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and other measures.

The study states that to reopen safely, students will need to be screened every two or three days. According to the researchers, “[w]e believe that there is a safe way for students to return to college in fall 2020. In this study, screening every 2 days using a rapid, inexpensive, and even poorly sensitive (>70%) test, coupled with strict interventions… was estimated to yield a modest number of containable infections and to be cost-effective.”

Using epidemic modeling and analysis of cost-effectiveness the study presents monitoring processes that would minimize cumulative infections, reduce strain on isolation and quarantine capacities, and be able to prevent significant outbreaks of the disease.

Some of the challenges and variables include more “strict adherence to handwashing, mandated indoor masking, elimination of buffet dining, limited bathroom sharing with frequent cleaning, de-densifying campuses and classrooms, and other best practices.” The study also states that institutions must be ready to effectively manage positive test results, with “rapid detection, confirmation, isolation, and treatment of true positive cases” being essential.

“The safe return of students to residential colleges demands an effective SARS-CoV-2 monitoring strategy. Results from this modelling study suggest that a highly specific screening test that can easily be administered to each student every 1 to 7 days—and that reports results quickly enough to permit newly detected cases to be isolated within hours—would be required to blunt the further transmission of infection and to control outbreaks at a justifiable cost.”

The study was co-authored by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School.

More testing requires more advanced tracking and monitoring

To meet recommendations like those outlined in the study, higher education institutions need an emergency preparedness and response platform that combines critical incident management best practices with pandemic-specific workflows, contact tracing and case management functionality for complete situational awareness.

Additionally, the solution used for case management, tracking, and monitoring should also support the highest control of privacy standards and be scalable and customizable to the institution’s needs. Some important features to consider include:

  • Centralized executive dashboards for complete situational awareness
  • Pre-configured workflows for fast time to value
  • Editable checklist templates based on FEMA, CDC, and OSHA guidelines
  • Mobile-ready check-in workflows
  • Contact tracing and case management with automated prompts
  • Facility status monitoring
  • Community impact tracking
  • Request/task Management
  • Status log
  • ArcGIS COVID19 map dashboards
  • Integration with existing technologies

Our WebEOC Campus solution combines emergency preparedness and response solutions with pandemic-specific workflows and is designed to give colleges and universities the tools they need to effectively monitor individuals and tracking facility statuses, PPE supplies, task assignments, and ongoing processes and procedures required.

Reach out to us today for a demo of WebEOC Campus. For more information about solutions and best practices for reopening higher education operations in the wake of COVID-19, contact Juvare today.

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