Fast, frequent testing for COVID-19 can help stem the spread of the infectious disease on college campuses, according to a new report published by the National Academies on Dec. 1.
Duke’s Thomas Denny, chief operating officer of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, is one of three authors on the report, which summarizes collective wisdom from many American campuses that swiftly instituted testing programs in order to remain open this fall. The downloadable online booklet is the outgrowth of a two-day virtual session in October that was called together by the Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN), an activity of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
Though robust testing strategies for finding asymptomatic infections was key to the success of some campuses – including Duke – testing alone will not keep people safe, the report emphasizes. Campuses should also enact contact-tracing, isolation rooms and exposure notification and enforce masking and distancing measures. Coordination with local health authorities is also key, because universities are not isolated from the towns that surround them.
The report also offers examples of Covid ‘dashboards’ employed by campuses and thumbnail case studies of testing strategies employed by several colleges and universities during the Fall 2020 term.
“Decision makers must apply the best available, but often incomplete, knowledge to navigate trade-offs and uncertainties in ways that apply and intersect with the core purpose or mission of their institution,” the report concluded.