Fauci: Colleges With COVID-19 Outbreaks Should Not Send Infected Students Back Home

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease expert, has advice for colleges trying to control clusters of COVID-19: Don’t send students back home, reports NBC News.

“It’s the worst thing you could do,” he told the TODAY show on Wednesday. “When you send them home, particularly when you’re dealing with a university where people come from multiple different locations, you could be seeding the different places with infection.”

Dr. Anthony FauciDr. Anthony Fauci

Instead, Fauci recommended that, if a university has the resources and space, it should isolate infected students on campus.

“Some colleges have the capability of a dorm or a couple of floors of a dorm where they could keep people who are infected,” Fauci said. “Keep them at the university in a place that’s sequestered enough from the other students so that you don’t get a cluster in the university, but don’t have them go home, because they could be spreading it in their home state.”

But, according to NBC, Dr. Art Caplan, a professor of bioethics at NYU Langone Health, argues the opposite. He believes sending infected students home is the safer option, since it may be easier for parents to restrict their children’s movements and they may have better access to medical care. Plus, he added that cafeteria workers and other support staff members on campus wouldn’t be put at risk.

“The college housing experience was not built for plagues,” said Caplan. “They’re going to wander. They’re going to visit each other. They’re going to go into town. They’re going to sneak off and have a party. This is what they do.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, echoed Fauci’s advice, warning governors on Monday that college students could become the cause of outbreaks beyond campuses if they return to their hometowns, said NBC.

“Sending these individuals back home in their asymptomatic state to spread the virus in their hometown or among their vulnerable households could really re-create what we experienced over the June time frame in the South,” NBC records Birx as saying.

Ultimately, “Caplan acknowledges it is a complex situation, without a single answer for all universities,” wrote NBC.