If You Live Here, You Should Get Tested for COVID Every 2 Days, Study Says

New research says it's the most effective way to keep the virus from spreading in these potential hubs.

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Countless places and activities have been pinpointed as major sources of coronavirus transmission, from using an elevator to singing in church. However, there's one potential COVID hotspot that's so likely to spread the virus that experts are now saying that staying safe here would require multiple coronavirus tests a week: college campuses. In a July 31 study published in JAMA Network Open, researchers from the Yale School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and Massachusetts General Hospital recommend that college students returning to campus should get tested for coronavirus every two days to limit future outbreaks.

In the study, the researchers estimated a theoretical population of 5,000 students, 4,990 of whom don't have coronavirus infections, while 10 have asymptomatic cases of which they were unaware. Using a predictive model, the researchers found that, if students were tested for the virus once every seven days, an average of 121 students would be new candidates for isolation each day, 108 of whom—or 90 percent—would test positive for the virus. If the same student body was tested for coronavirus every two days, only 76 would be candidates for isolation, 28 of whom would be COVID-positive. Were students to take daily tests for the virus, 116 students would be candidates for isolation, but just 21 of them would have positive test results.

students wearing masks in college lecture hall
Shutterstock/Syda Productions

As a result, the study's authors recommend that, in order for colleges to safely reopen for in-person instruction this year, schools should "require screening every 2 days, uncompromising vigilance, and continuous attention to good prevention practices." But it remains to be seen which institutions—if any—are willing to implement such measures, which would likely be cost- and time-prohibitive.

However, without regular testing, the outcome could be dire. According to a July 28 report from The New York Times, over 6,600 cases of coronavirus have already been traced back to 270 colleges in the U.S., with some schools reporting up to 449 infections since the pandemic began.

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Even with the potential for many college campuses to become major hubs for new infections, some experts say they should still reopen. In a virtual press conference with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on August 3, Anthony Fauci, MD, said that anyone returning to a college campus should be tested prior to arrival, upon arrival, and then potentially quarantine for 14 days.

"I think if they maintain the guidelines that are put together for people coming back, they should be fine," Fauci said. And for more insight into potential coronavirus hubs, check out These Two States Are Becoming the Worst COVID Hotspots in the U.S.

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