The number of COVID-19 cases is rising among college students. People assume this means a rise in cases among people ages 18-22. For a community college, the picture differs – and not in a good way. While the traditional college-age students make up a large portion of a community college’s student body, they’re not the majority.
Community colleges also enroll a large proportion of students in their late-20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Combined, this demographic group accounts for almost 45% of the COVID-19 cases in Michigan. Worse, college-age students make up the highest proportion of asymptomatic carriers.
Opening campus and providing screening for students is a start, but it’s not enough to remind students often that they could unknowingly be carrying the disease. While the news is filled with stories about COVID-19 outbreaks related to bars, parties and other social events, many COVID-19 cases among young people don’t arise from poor decision-making.
Younger people tend to have jobs that fall into the “essential worker” category. They do not tend to work from home. Further, they often share living space with others in similar situations.
Screening students who come to campus simply isn’t enough. Statistically, for every three people that symptom-based screening will identify, it will miss two asymptomatic carriers. Public health experts warn that the number of cases of COVID-19 will likely rise as winter approaches.
On-site testing is one way to increase disease surveillance in a place where asymptomatic carriers are very likely to be found. Offering COVID-19 testing on campus will not only help keep the campus safer, but also it will help reduce community spread by individuals who show no symptoms.
Photo Credit: Thunderchild 7 , via Flickr