Colleges quickly closed upon news of widespread COVID-19 infections in the U.S. Now, they must decide when to reopen. Many universities and colleges, as summer headlines extensively covered, guaranteed their reopening in the fall. However, in order to reopen universities, administrators needed to develop plans to slow the spread. They needed much more than just a simple fix: U.S. universities and colleges required comprehensive strategies that covered every detail of managing the spread of COVID-19. Many universities, such as those listed below, planned to reopen and thus began developing new strategies to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in large institutions.
Colleges With Plans to Reopen
In fact, 65% of colleges communicated an intention to reopen as of late June, including:
- Tulane University
- University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
- The University of Maryland
- Brown University
- Lynchburg University
- The University of California System
- Michigan State
- Drexel University
- Liberty University
- Rice University
The first on the list, Tulane University, serves as an interesting case study in the question of reopening. According to data collected by Tulane University’s student publication, The Hullabaloo, 43% of students wanted to go forward with an online semester.
Then why reopen? Of course, reopening means that the school is able to cash in on large tuition bills. But what else does reopening accomplish? The surprising answer is that it may spur innovative solutions for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 in large institutions while remaining open.
New Strategies for Minimizing COVID-19 in Large Institutions
Besides Tulane University, schools across the country now have to envision what campus life will look like until a reliable COVID-19 vaccine comes out. Innovations vary from perfecting existing traffic patterns to coming up with new public health diagnostics. After analyzing various university plans, some of the most innovative strategies to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in large institutions include:
- Testing the sewage containers of large dorms for COVID-19 (as fecal tests are the earliest-result diagnostic tool)
- Building COVID-19 architecture such as industrial buildings with sanitizing capacities built into their HVAC systems
- Rotating COVID-19 testing in a set population
- Requiring morning symptom check-ins via a website or app
- Testing surfaces, air particles and air vents (since these areas can be swabbed every day, multiple times a day)
- Offering hybrid classes, which use video conferencing software such as Zoom or pre-recorded lectures for all possible needs while retaining in-person components like labs
- Controlling all foot traffic patterns
- Providing personal protective gear
- Creating new forms to report institutions’ failure to comply with university, city, state or federal regulations
- Instituting repercussions for those responsible for “super-spreader” events
- Graduate student research using the university data on COVID-19
- Instituting stricter shut-down policies in colder regions
By late August, six of the eight colleges listed above decided to limit or cancel in-person offerings entirely. That does not mean that the tools they developed, listed above, were for nothing. Their failed attempts to reopen provided millions of dollars for creating new plans and technology for reopening such large institutions.
How These Strategies Can Help Developing Countries
What do these advancements have to do with fighting global poverty? If both small and large advances are included, there are actually many innovations originating in universities that could translate to the spheres of developing countries to lessen the risk of COVID-19 in these areas.
In fact, university campuses echo the high-density spheres of low-income urban centers across the world. So, if universities are formulating plans for how to reopen this type of institution, countries that must stay open to keep their economies from failing can implement other COVID-19-reducing tools. They would not have to rely solely on the complete lockdowns that European welfare states pulled off early on. Because complete lockdown necessitates almost all citizens have homes, savings and a consistent food source, it is best to offer other tools to limit the spread.
To test new COVID-19 strategies on citizens of developing countries, especially those without healthcare and below the poverty rate, would cause mass death. However, implementing new strategies for fighting COVID-19 in large institutions in which the population is required to have health insurance and most do not fall into at-risk age groups is a much safer equation.
Funding These Innovations
You might be wondering how these countries will be able to afford to implement these precautions. Implementing all of the above innovations would be costly, but over $35 billion has been given to developing countries for just that purpose. USAID, partnering with the State Department, has provided $1.5 billion in COVID-19 relief aid. Private American groups also outsource COVID-19 aid. This number totals somewhere around $20.5 billion according to USAID tracking.
The World Bank Group’s fast-track financing program approved $14 billion to aid countries struggling to fight COVID-19. Nate Rawlings, the Middle East correspondent for the World Bank, detailed the history of this large relief package: “In March, the World Bank’s Board of Directors approved a package of fast-track financing to assist countries in their efforts to prevent, detect and respond to the rapid spread of COVID-19. The Bank organized and approved the fast track facility to quickly get resources to countries dealing with a fast-moving, global public health crisis.” The term “resources,” as used by Rawlings, can be defined as the implementation of the new innovations universities tested and found effective, such as COVID-19 architecture, fecal testing and surface testing. With these new tools, developing countries can remain open while still minimizing the spread of COVID-19 in large institutions, urban spaces and more.
– Rory Davis