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US College leaders deserve a flunking grade for their reopening (opinion)

16:10  20 september  2020
16:10  20 september  2020 Source:   cnn.com

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Kent Sepkowitz writes that in allowing their students to return, university leaders have failed miserably at making the decisions that would have kept their students and communities safe.

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College life right now is a mess: there has been an explosion of Covid-19 cases on college campuses since some schools resumed in person. According to The New York Times weekly tally updated on September 10, there have been 88,000 Covid-19 cases across 1,190 college campuses. Of these, "more than 61,000 cases came since late August."

a person with a frisbee in front of a building: CHAPEL HILL, NC - AUGUST 18: A student walks through the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on August 18, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The school halted in-person classes and reverted back to online courses after a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases over the past week. (Photo by Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images) © Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images CHAPEL HILL, NC - AUGUST 18: A student walks through the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on August 18, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The school halted in-person classes and reverted back to online courses after a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases over the past week. (Photo by Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images)

That's a lot of cases in two weeks. And that number has likely substantially grown since the Times published these statistics. Countless additional campus cases are inevitably undiagnosed.

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College leaders deserve a flunking grade for their reopening . Opinion by Kent Sepkowitz. College students are of an age where they -- or their dorm mates -- are likely to be unable, or unwilling, to practice social distancing on campus.

Planning to reopen colleges successfully will be much more complicated than shutting them down, write Steve Kloehn, Julie A Because if colleges and universities are to recover from this pandemic, leaders must begin now to plan what those Opinions on Inside Higher Ed. Why I’m Teaching Online.

The challenge for safe school reopening is particularly complex for colleges, where classrooms and learning are combined with, for many, living away from home. Yet, even as universities get back to business, it seems that the focus has been as much on the fate of college football as on the logistics of college life.

There are a few reasons, perhaps, for the underwhelming response to what is a massive number of young adults getting sick. College kids are seen as resilient, at times maybe to a fault. They catch all sorts of infections, they break bones, they vomit over balconies and then go to class the next day. We have become somewhat accustomed to this.

And the case fatality rate for Covid-19 among 15 to 24 years old appears low: to date, only 333 of the over 197,000 Covid-19 related deaths have been in this age group.

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Plus, one could say that 88,000 people out of 20 million college students in the United States is a tiny drop in the bucket.

But this "it could be so much worse!" perspective completely misses the point. Three hundred and fifteen deaths are not zero. It's 315 devastated families. And there is increasing recognition among survivors that cardiac and other symptoms may persist after recovery.

Leaving aside the clear risk to the students themselves, from the public health perspective, there is the glaring fact that so many still choose to ignore: Covid-19 is quite contagious and always will end up in the highest risk populations.

So even if most of the college kids themselves are not going to become ill, they pose an enormous risk to their teachers and to the locals in the area. Stores and restaurants that are an essential part of college life and town livelihood are often run by people who are not so young and resilient.

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Indeed, an entire town may be upended. For example, Oklahoma State University has about 25,000 students in Stillwater, Oklahoma, a town of 50,000. As of this week, the area was diagnosing 58 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, categorizing it, per Oklahoma policy, as "Red Level" and necessitating the cancellation of athletics and other extracurricular activities in the public K-12 schools.

Just two weeks before, because of rising case numbers, the public schools had shifted to distance learning for all, but the spread continued. These sorts of disruptions may become common as transmission takes root.

But the danger to the town (or the area surrounding any urban campus) is not the only problem created by tens of thousands of new cases among college students. Many colleges are imploring the infected students to go home -- take thy face hence!

This, as Dr. Anthony Fauci says, is "the worst thing you could do ... When you send them home ... you could be seeding the different places with infection." An August wedding in Maine has provided a chilling example of this "seeding" phenomenon: at least 147 cases and 3 deaths spread across hundreds of miles have been linked to the gathering.

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Opinion : College leaders deserve a flunking grade for their reopening . (CNN) College life right now is a mess: there has been an explosion of Covid-19 cases on college campuses since some schools resumed in person.

Primary schools until the 4th grade reopened on September 1st. COVID-19 pandemic in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 16 March, India declared a countrywide lock-down of schools and colleges . Schools remain open only for parents who cannot find alternative accommodation for their children

Once again, we find ourselves in a self-inflicted debacle with equally grim options for moving forward and a disengaged federal government. Leaving infected students in colleges will only amplify the infection numbers and, as with Stillwater Oklahoma, threaten to overwhelm a town; but sending them home also promises a disastrous, if different, ripple of cases and chaos.

Dr. Fauci's advice to "keep them at the university in a place that's sequestered enough from the other students" is the only appropriate option, though it will likely still cause illness and death and become a target for political second-guessing. And as with the first and second waves of the US Covid-19 pandemic, this newest third wave will eventually settle, despite national neglect and what seems like deliberate mismanagement.

This latest crisis wave has revealed not only these now-established themes that have characterized the US's handling of Covid-19 to date but also an extremely disappointing new wrinkle. In allowing their students to return, leaders, who are the head of universities where Covid-19 spikes have happened, have failed miserably. They and the institutions they direct are the products of the Age of Enlightenment when superstition and magical thinking began to yield to a structured rational world, a world of logic and science and disciplined scholarship.

Yet, when pressed to make a rational decision, they abandoned that centuries-old foundation to grasp at the flimsiest of hopes that maybe a miracle will happen, maybe the virus will suddenly go away. And maybe the sun will rise in the West if we boil the eye of a newt.

History should give them all a flunking grade.

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