Senate Health and Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) this week said “the question for administrators of 6,000 colleges and universities is not whether to reopen in August, but how to do it safely.”
Alexander made his remarks during this week’s Senate Health and Education Committee hearing — “COVID-19: Going Back to College Safely” — which featured college and university presidents discussing their work to help students go back to school in the fall as safely as possible.
According to a press release, topics included the following:
• Strategies for COVID-19 diagnostic and serology testing
• Plans to isolate students discovered to have the virus or have been exposed to it
• Implementation of social distancing guidelines
• Coordination and discussions with state and local public health officials
“President Trump and Congress should not be telling the California State University System that it must open its classes in person, or telling Notre Dame it cannot—or telling UT-Knoxville that it must test everyone on the campus or telling Brown University that it cannot. Colleges themselves, not Washington D.C., should make those decisions,” Alexander said, according to a press release.
“I recently was on a phone call with about 90 presidents of Tennessee’s 127 institutions of higher education, and almost all of them are planning to resume in-person classes in the fall, but they want governments to create liability protection against being sued if a student becomes sick. All roads back to college lead through testing. The availability of widespread testing will allow colleges to track and isolate students who have the virus or have been exposed to it, so the rest of the student body doesn’t have to be quarantined.”
Widespread testing not only helps contain the disease — it builds confidence that the campus is safe, Alexander said. He then quoted U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir, who said we will have 40-50 million tests available per month by September. That is four to five times today’s number—and today’s number is twice as many as any other country, Alexander said.
Alexander said each state submits a monthly plan to the federal government outlining testing supplies and needs.
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