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Here’s how colleges are trying to limit the spread of COVID-19

Can students safely return to campus during the coronavirus pandemic? Parents are anxious.
Parents are anxious.
(Murugiah / For The Times)

We’re answering readers’ questions about life during the pandemic:

How can colleges stop COVID-19 from spreading? Is that really possible?

Although many colleges and universities are working hard to welcome students back safely in conjunction with federal, state and local health guidelines, there is no guarantee students won’t get sick.

When and if students return to campus, they can expect a full range of requirements depending on their school and state, with temperature checks, swab tests and social distancing a given.

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We’re listening, L.A.: Tell us what you want to know about the most pressing questions you have at this time — how to find a job, the best ways to manage your finances, and whether it’s safe to send your kids back to school or off to college — and we’ll find the best experts to answer your questions.

At Vassar College, students will be expected to stay on campus for the entire 12-week fall semester in an effort to mitigate the virus.

Drexel and New York universities and the University of Hawaii, which all plan to offer face-to-face and virtual instruction, will require students arriving from “hot spot” states such as California to self-quarantine for 14 days before arriving on campus.

At Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, classes will begin a week early i to complete the fall semester before the holidays.

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Many parents feel uneasy about students returning to campus this fall. Here are some things to consider before they do.

Codes of conduct at schools like Purdue University will mandate the use of face masks in hallways, elevators, dorms, public spaces and classrooms. Dining will be largely grab-and-go, with social distancing in cafeterias. Students who want to have a roommate can expect to sign a liability waiver. And in an effort to provide ample breathing room for students and staff, many schools will host small classes in large auditoriums along with classes on Saturday and holidays.

It’s critically important that schools have a solid plan in place for testing, contact tracing, quarantine and treatment, said Pardis Sabeti, professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard University.

“We must acknowledge that if the infection ever reaches the school, it could spread like wildfire,” she said. “Ultimately, we want to be able to create a sort of cocoon around the school and a buffer to understand how and where infections might reach school grounds through the external relationships of the students and staff. Of course, given everything that is going on, it sounds highly infeasible to bring schools back.”

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We’re listening, L.A.: Tell us what you want to know about the most pressing questions you have at this time — how to find a job, the best ways to manage your finances, and whether it’s safe to send your kids back to school or off to college — and we’ll find the best experts to answer your questions.


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