College administrators have a tough balancing act as they deal with Covid-19. If they are too strict, their policies could backfire with students fearing repercussions during contract tracing or for reporting cases. This is the model Northeastern University has taken with their 50 million dollar “ Protect the Pack “ strategy. If college officials are too relaxed they run the risk that students will spread the virus on campus and in the surrounding community. Tufts University is striking a middle ground and have set up a quarantine residence hall for students who live off campus and test positive. Boston College has no such provisions for students living off campus telling students to quarantine in their apartment or in private houses. Obviously their approach exposes more people to students who have tested positive.
With the number of cases rising drastically over the past 10 days to 92,000, colleges are caught between Covid-19 and politics and this is a problem of their own making. They chose tuition and room and board income to be more important than the apparent safety of their students. As of September 21st Penn State and Providence College are in crisis. Faculty and staff are at risk because the college administrations will not divulge if a student they have been in contact with has tested positively. Their reason is confidentiality of the student’s identity. There seems to be a clear prioritization of testing of football players over the student body. The Boston Globe (9/22) stats no Covid-19 cases on the football team while the students paying $75,000 per year can’t get tested. Health experts warn colleges not to send students home who have tested positive but what happens if their quarantine dorm space is 100% filled? One infected student infects a dozen or more students. These numbers are staggering and have greatly compounded our national health crisis because college students come from a multitude of different locations and they could be spreading the virus in areas that previously had a low infection rate. Colleges need to be working on a student exiting procedure before sending students home in November.
Based on the colleges’ track record, I doubt that there will be a coordinated effort collectively by colleges in the area. Perhaps public health officials need to dictate their policy to all area colleges. Colleges are blaming students for not socially distancing and wearing masks is valid but were college presidents so naïve to think that they could not predict what is happening now or did tuition dollars override their decision to open their campuses.