Can College Parties Be Safe during COVID-19?

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Playing Partying on Campus during COVID: Can It Ever Be Safe?

The Doctors discuss whether college students are being too reckless during the COVID-19 pandemic and answer if college parties can happen safely right now.

Watch: How One University Is COVID Tracing Its Students through Wastewater

There are reports across the country of students throwing parties regardless of COVID safety precautions and restrictions and a recent incident at Miami University in Ohio, where students had a COVID party claiming everyone attending already had the virus, made national headlines. University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins and infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Celine Gounder join Dr. Ian Smith to unpack the campus COVID risks.

Watch: What Is College Life Like for Students During COVID?

Dr. Gounder stresses there is practically no way to know if everyone at the reported party previously had the virus, and she notes while many young people only suffer from mild effects of the virus, some can develop severe complications, others develop long-term issues, and some die. 

The University of Arizona President, who is also a physician, says his school is using wastewater-based epidemiology to identify asymptomatic students in campus housing and has already identified over 100 students who were not aware they had the virus. He expresses great concern about what students are doing during their private time while off-campus that might be putting them at risk. He says the university has a discipline plan in place for students who break the COVID rules, which can lead to suspension and expulsion. 

Watch: One Student Is Sounding COVID Safety Concerns about His University

We also speak with 2 college students at 2 different universities about their experience with dealing with COVID on campus. Kirsten (who attends college in Texas) shares all of her classes are being done remotely, but she lives with 8 other students, and some attend classes in person. Also, Jimmy (who goes to school on the east coast) feels his university is not properly handling the pandemic, not testing enough students, and not communicating with students about potential outbreaks and risks.  

The Doctors remind students and their families that all of the same COVID risks that exist off-campus are a potential risk at colleges and universities, especially in shared housing situations, and we stress that all safety precautions (wearing a face mask, distancing, and proper sanitation) should be taken. Additionally, students need to be aware of the risk of infection (especially to older and at-risk family members) when traveling home during holiday breaks.

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