Top colleges are taking a page from the adult film industry’s playbook to ensure that they can reopen this fall and stay open, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. I applaud them for it.
As I wrote in early April (Let the porn industry reopen the economy):
Donald Trump, the CDC and much of the rest of the federal government have demonstrated sustained incompetence on getting testing going…
The obvious answer is to enlist the adult film industry in returning the economy to normalcy. The industry has operated a testing system successfully for years to stave off threats of infections from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
I went on to describe the PASS system that had operated successfully for a decade, with frequent testing and follow-up. I encouraged employers to do something similar.
Employers haven’t really taken this on, but one sector of the economy is not only adopting this approach but taking it to the next level. Some high-end private colleges and universities are determined to return to campus this fall. Online classes are ok but they are a very poor substitute for the in-person experience and are frankly not worth the tuition.
Unlike some of our red state governors, certain college presidents are taking a cold, hard look at what it will take to make it happen. They aren’t relying on science and public health experts, not wishful thinking. And they have come to the same conclusions that the porn kings did.
Here’s what Colby College is doing (emphasis mine). They expect to spend $10 million this year.
Colby’s testing program… will require the participation of all members of the campus community—students, faculty, and staff. Students will be tested prior to arrival with test kits provided by Colby, and all community members will be tested three times during the opening weeks of the semester. Thereafter, everyone will be tested twice per week, a rate that scientific models have demonstrated will greatly limit the spread of the virus by detecting infections in individuals prior to them becoming contagious. To put this in perspective, we expect to administer roughly 85,000 tests in the first semester alone, a number that almost equals the total number of tests administered in the entire state of Maine since the start of the pandemic.
…Test results will be returned to the individual and the College within 24 hours, allowing for any required mitigation efforts to be instituted quickly. We have leased additional housing for quarantine and isolation of students, who will be provided with a range of support services, including facilitating their coursework, attention to medical and mental health, and food delivery.
Brandeis will provide high-frequency, mandatory COVID-19 testing to all on-campus community members…All students living in campus residence halls will be tested upon their arrival to campus, and students living off-campus will be tested at a designated time before the start of the fall term. There will also be mandatory testing multiple times per month for all students, faculty, and staff who either live on campus or who come to campus several times per week, whether or not they are symptomatic. This will enable us to quickly identify and contain any instances of infection on our campus. Those coming to campus less frequently will also be tested, though not as frequently.
Testing is part of broader plans, but it is the core and let’s us know they are dead serious. Both of these schools are working with the Broad Institute for testing.
Interestingly, some other colleges are wavering on testing or throwing in the towel with a move to online only. Good luck with that.