Keep coronavirus-infected college students at school, Fauci urges

'It's the worst thing you could do'

As colleges deal with coronavirus concerns, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned parents this week to keep kids who contract COVID-19 at school, and not let them convalesce at home.

"It's the worst thing you could do," Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said during an interview on NBC’s "TODAY" show 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.”

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Fauci stressed during the interview that colleges have the ability to conatain outbreaks by keeping students on campuses.

"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."

Fauci’s sentiments were also shared by Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator. During a call to state governors this week, Birx said that sending home students infected with COVID-19 could just encourage transmission of the virus, according to multiple reports.

“Sending these individuals back home in their asymptomatic state to spread the virus in their home town or among their vulnerable households could really recreate what we experienced over the June time frame in the South. So I think every university president should have a plan for not only testing but caring for their students that need to isolate,” Birx reportedly stated.

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Parents told Fox News they have mixed feelings about leaving sick kids at college.

Marianne Reardon, who has a daughter away at school, told Fox News that she ultimately agrees with Fauci and Birx.

“As hard as it for me to say,  obviously any parent would want to have their child home if they got sick, but I agree with Dr. Fauci that it is safer for them to stay at school," Reardon said. “We don't want the students to bring the virus home and potentially spread within their families, neighborhoods or beyond.”

Another college parent agreed, but said she couldn't guarantee she wouldn't change her mind.

“I do think that if you send kids home they will potentially just infect their families. However, as a mom if my kid gets really sick and I am not convinced that they are receiving attentive care it will be hard not to pick them up.”

Colleges across the country are trying to control COVID-19 clusters on campus by implementing different ways to mitigate the spread of the virus. Wastewater surveillance systems to detect viral loads in sewage water are on several campuses already, including the University of Arizona and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. SARS-CoV-2 testing has been made available on campuses and certain measures like mandatory face coverings as well as social distancing have also been put into place.

Some colleges are already seeing spikes of novel coronavirus cases on campus. Over 1,000 cases were reported at the University of Alabama between Aug. 19 and Aug. 27, according to their website. A statement released this week by University of Alabama system officials discussed how emptying campuses during the pandemic is not the answer to containing COVID-19 infections.

In the statement, University of Alabama system school officials said, in part, that measures should be taken to control the spread by keeping kids on campus "if resources are available."

“From a public health perspective, you want to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus,” said Selwyn Vickers, the dean of the School of Medicine, was quoted. He added, “If resources are available on campus to manage an outbreak and keep it from spreading to other locations and people that may not be experiencing spread, that should be the goal.”