5 Best Practices for Safely Bringing Students Back on Campus

5 best practices for safely bringing students back on campus.

After more than a year of disruption, getting students back to campus is a top priority for university administrators. In our COVID-19 work with higher education institutions, we’ve seen a whirlwind of nearly constant change over the last year. There were shifting return dates, outbreaks that needed containment, and protocols that evolved from having no testing in place to testing everyone regardless of symptoms. Along the way, we’ve all learned a lot. 

Fortunately, the outlook for Fall 2021 is brighter. The proliferation of vaccines has given hope that something close to normal life can return. Still, there are plenty of unknowns to be prepared for, and outbreaks can still happen. How can higher education institutions effectively plan for a safe return to campus in Fall 2021? 

Based on statistical modeling and our own hands-on experience working with universities, we’ve developed these five best practices for safely bringing students back on campus in Fall 2021. 

1. Take a clear stance on vaccinations.

The safest practice is to require that students and staff be vaccinated in order to return to campus in the fall. But for various reasons, some universities may be reluctant or unable to institute such a requirement. Whatever your position is on vaccinations, make sure you communicate it clearly to your community — and be prepared to hold the line. 

2. Conduct pre-arrival testing.

Whether you’re requiring vaccinations or not, the best way to reduce the risk of introducing COVID-19 cases on campus is to ensure everyone has negative test results prior to arrival. Currently available COVID-19 vaccines are around 95% effective against severe cases which means there could be breakthrough positive cases. Protect your campus community with a pre-arrival testing program that’s easy to administer. 

3. Maintain an ongoing cadence of viral testing on campus. 

Ongoing viral testing is essential precisely because some populations will be vaccinated and some won’t. More likely, you’ll have a partially vaccinated campus population, ideally trending toward widespread vaccine uptake. As the share that’s vaccinated approaches the herd immunity threshold, you’ll be able to transition away from broad viral testing. Our Testing and Vaccines Modeling Tool shows how levels of vaccine uptake and testing frequency interact to reduce transmission in group settings. 

4. Be prepared for positive cases.

Even with a partially vaccinated population, positive cases can still emerge. These can spread rapidly through congregate settings, such as dormitories and dining halls. If you have an emerging outbreak, you might need to test thousands of individuals in a few days. Make this scenario manageable by having a rapid-response infrastructure in place that’s easily accessible and ready to implement.

5. Track the health of your campus population.

To ensure a safe environment for students and staff, you’ll want to have visibility into your population’s health. Positive cases, outbreaks, and vaccine rates are all key data points that will help you make informed decisions for your campus community.

We’re all hopeful for a smooth and safe return to campus that looks close to normal. Making that happen requires being prepared, even as vaccination rates continue to rise. Follow these five best practices and you’ll be ready to have students and staff back on campus safely.

For additional recommendations for a safe return to campus, get our latest Return to Campus Guide

Ready to discuss how Color can help you safely bring students and staff back to campus? Contact sales.

Tags: , ,