Post #852: College re-openings that are succeeding.

Posted on October 6, 2020

Source:  William and Mary COVID-19 dashboard, downloaded 10/6/2020.

Starting a month ago, I did a handful of posts on press coverage of COVID-19 and students’ return to college campuses.  (Post #786, Post #788, and then sporadic mentions after that.  Ending with a discussion of the absolutely nutso “Right to Party” proposed by the governor of (where else) Florida (Post #825).

The gist of all that is that a) newspapers make it their business to report only the bad news and the outrageous actors, so you don’t ever hear about the success stories, and b) the success stories have a few, simple, obvious things in common.

Mainly, successful college re-openings seem to stand on two key pillars.    They test all the students, frequently.   And they either have few rule-breakers to start with, or they manage to kick the rule-breakers off campus before those non-compliant students can spread enough disease to spoil the semester for everyone.

Everybody agrees that the big risk, and the main source of disease spread, is big, no-mask, no-social-distance parties.  And so, that boils down to a crackdown on people who host parties that break the rules.

In that context, it was refreshing, then to see this New York Times article, just a few days ago:  “Colleges Learn How to Suppress Coronavirus:  Extensive Testing”, by Shawn Hubler, October 2, 2020.  This is an article about success stories, not failures.  And so, it doesn’t get people all righteously angry, the way the reporting of failures aims to do.  But it’s much more helpful if your goal is to understand what works, and not to dwell on what doesn’t.

I wanted to put a marker down, and bring it to your attention if you didn’t see it.  Precisely because it’s the one story to come out, so far, focusing on the successes.  And emphasizing what we all can learn from those successes.

Just give it a quick read, if you’re interested.  The solution isn’t rocket science.  Test for COVID-19, and aggressively crack down on the rule-breakers.  Success isn’t due to magic or luck.  It’s due to planning, a lot of testing, and the willingness to punish the handful of rule-breakers whose behavior threatens the community at large.  I think there are lessons there for colleges and beyond.

But hey, what about Radford University?  I wrote them up as the first big apparent failure in Virginia.  They had a pretty serious outbreak, virtually all of which was attributable to two large rule-breaking parties held early in the semester.

Funny, but I haven’t seen much press coverage of Radford of late.  And, given how newspaper are, I’d bet that’s a good indication that disaster was, in fact, averted.  So, how is Radford University doing now?  Note the figure at the far right, in this snapshot of the Radford COVID-19 dashboard, taken this morning.

Source:  Radford University COVID-19 dashboard, downloaded 10/6/2020.