Safe return to campus after holidays

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Campuses are empty as college students are on Thanksgiving break, but the governor says coeds can’t come back unless they’re tested.

Earlier this week Governor Wolf announced new health department orders and stronger enforcements to curb the rise in COVID-19 cases, strongly advising against travel for the holiday
but college students had already gone home for break.

Thursday, Pennsylvanians got an emergency alert that hospitals could soon be at capacity. Question for colleges and universities: how do we bring students back? College campuses are quiet as students settle in to an extended thanksgiving break. But bringing students back will be a complicated process.

“Planning is already underway on how we can best test our students returning in January, and throughout the spring semester,” Gabrielle D’Amico, executive director of communications for Wilkes University, said.

With a second wave of the virus in view, the PA Health Department recommends colleges and universities implement a COVID-19 testing plan for when students return to campus after the holidays.

On the week students were packing up to head home, Governor Tom Wolf made the announcement: every college and university should test all students at the beginning of each term, and when returning to campus after a break.

D’Amico says they already planned to test students returning from hot-spot states or abroad with rapid test kits.

“This newest guidance is going to require us to expand that plan to include as many students as possible and to implement that screening testing,” D’Amico said.

The state also recommends colleges and universities have regular screening testing throughout the semester. Officials at Wilkes University and King’s College spent the fall suppressing community spread on campus. They say their rapid testing capability is a huge factor in their success.

“We’ve got enough numbers to do the testing that we need to do for our students and we’ll continue to make sure that’s available,” Robert Reese, vice president for enrollment and marketing of King’s College, said.

Reese says organizing entry testing for every student is a daunting task but their goal is to return to classes in-person.

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