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Study suggests colleges would need to frequently test all students for COVID-19 to reopen safely

Testing every 2 days would cost $470 per student

DETROIT – A new study is looking at what it would take for colleges to reopen safely.

The findings suggest frequently testing all of the students would be necessary to keep classes on campus and the coronavirus (COVID-19) under control.

July 31, 2020 -- Michigan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases up to 81,621; Death toll now at 6,199

To study what would be necessary to reopen college campuses, researchers at Yale created a hypothetical medium-sized college campus with 5,000 students. In the hypothetical study, all were living on campus and none had immunity to COVID-19.

Researchers looked at what would happen over the course of an 80 day semester if just 10 of the students had an asymptomatic COVID-19 infection at the start of the semester.

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Based on their model, if all of the students were tested once a week, 1,840 students would still become infected over the course of the semester. Each day, about 121 students would be quarantined because they tested positive.

If all of the students were tested every two days, researchers said just 243 would be infected during the semester and about 76 would need to be quarantined on any given day.

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Researchers cautioned, simply monitoring students for symptoms instead of actually testing them was not sufficient to contain an outbreak on the hypothetical campus.

The study was based on the results that could be expected from an inexpensive, rapid test. A test that would give some false negative results. Testing students every two days would cost about $470 per student, per semester.

Researchers noted the frequency of testing was much more important than the accuracy of the test.

Testing every two days, even with a lower-quality test, still prevented more hypothetical infections than weekly testing with a more expensive test.

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