Wall Street Journal op-ed: Why Cornell Will Reopen in the Fall, by Michael Kotlikoff (Provost, Cornell) & Martha Pollack (President, Cornell):
Colleges and universities in the U.S. face a difficult choice in the coming weeks. Some have decided that closing their campuses and offering online classes is the safest option. For others, the safer and more responsible alternative may be to allow students to return while putting in place a comprehensive virus-screening program that minimizes the risk of transmission. Contingent on New York state’s approval, we will be opening Cornell for residential instruction this fall.
Consider two scenarios. University A decides to reopen. For the health and safety of students, faculty and staff, it institutes a screening program to identify asymptomatic students infected with the novel coronavirus and prevent them from spreading it by repeated testing and isolation. The school also monitors symptoms daily, restricts group sizes, modifies classrooms and dorms, secures extensive quarantine capacity, restricts travel, and imposes requirements for masks and social distancing.
University B decides that this is too risky and chooses to play it safe. The school doesn’t reopen for residential instruction this fall and opts instead to teach all courses online. It takes cautious steps to open for selected professional or graduate programs and research efforts, but doesn’t implement the complex process of screening thousands of undergraduates and modifying the learning environment for social distancing.
Surprisingly, epidemiological modeling done by a group led by Cornell Prof. Peter Frazier [COVID-19 Mathematical Modeling for Cornell’s Fall Semester] suggests that despite playing it safe, sometime during the fall University B may well experience markedly worse health outcomes in its community, while University A will have more effectively safeguarded public health.
For many universities, closing the campus to undergraduates is probably not the safest option—notwithstanding concerns that college students may not adhere to public-health guidelines. That’s because at many colleges, students will gather on and around campuses whether classes are held in person or online. ...
As universities like Cornell make difficult decisions about the fall semester, it’s important to consider the risks of not reopening alongside the risks of opening. Epidemiological modeling suggests, perhaps counterintuitively, that if a university is prepared to put in place a comprehensive virus screening program followed up with supportive quarantine and isolation—in addition to other effective public health measures—reopening may be the more responsible option.
COVID-19 Mathematical Modeling for Cornell’s Fall Semester:
Initial modeling results suggest that a combination of contact tracing, asymptomatic surveillance, and low initial prevalence (supported through testing students prior to, and upon, returning to campus) can achieve meaningful control over outbreaks on Cornell’s Ithaca campus in the fall semester if symptomatic surveillance is sufficiently frequent and if we have sufficient quarantine capacity. This would dovetail with a complementary effort at Cornell to reduce transmissions through housing policy, class organization, and regulations on social gatherings.
July 2, 2020 in Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink
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