What your campus can learn from 4 COVID success stories

Four universities say student buy-in and conducting all testing in-house was key to preventing spread
By: | December 8, 2020
Universities that suppressed COVID this fall say controlling their own self-administered testing program was key to success. (Photo: The Georgia Institute of Technology)Universities that suppressed COVID this fall say controlling their own self-administered testing program was key to success. (Photo: The Georgia Institute of Technology)

Fears that students returning to college this fall would cause a COVID surge were unfounded at four universities that detailed their  effective response plans Tuesday.

One approach leaders at all four schools agreed was essential to success was conducting all testing and analysis in-house to avoid the delays and supply shortages experienced by outside labs and healthcare facilities.

At the University of New Hampshire, administrators also decided they needed simpler, saliva-based tests that students could self-administer.

This would prevent the long-lines that probably would have developed had UNH opened centralized campus testing facilities, Marian McCord, the senior vice provost for research, economic engagement and outreach, said during a webinar on Tuesday.


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That made the university highly reliant to take the tests and turn them in correctly, said McCord, who oversaw the university’s COVID plan.

“It was risky but we knew we had to put trust in our students for our success,” McCord said. ‘The most important thing is that the student population embraced health and safety guidelines and have them understand the ability to continue to offering in-person experience is in their hands.”

The saliva-based, self-administered tests enabled UNH to test all 15,000 in-person students twice a week. This frequency of testing allowed the university to quickly isolated anyone who tested positive and quarantine close contacts.

“Even though we decided to continue remotely after Thanksgiving, many students decided to turn to the UNH-area and continue in our testing program,” McCord said. “They feel safer at UNH than they feel in their home communities.”

UNH conducted extensive testing of wastewater to spot infections in residence halls early and recruiting recent graduates and undergraduates to work in its COVID testing lab.

The fact that university healthcare facilities saw very few symptomatic cases is a sign that UNH’s various approaches were successful at catching cases early on, before the virus could spread widely.

Click on the slide show to read three more success stories:


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