APHA is calling on colleges and universities to follow the science when deciding whether to bring hundreds of thousands of students back to campus. 

Last week, at a U.S. Senate hearing on “COVID-19: Going Back to College Safely,” APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, testified that decisions to reopen campuses to students must be rooted in science and data. He also called on the educational institutions to work closely with local public health officials in their decisionmaking and preparations.

Georges Benjamin testifying before Senate committee“All the current evidence shows that we will continue to have undetected, broad community spread of COVID-19 and will continue to do so for many months to come,” Benjamin told members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “We should therefore assume, for planning purposes, that there will be people on campus with COVID-19 infections, regardless of what precautions are taken.”

During the hearing, Benjamin stressed the importance of developing and implementing a number of prevention and containment strategies on campus, including rapid COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. He urged colleges to recognize the disproportionate disease risks that black and Hispanic students face, to engage in active scenario planning and to prepare for a flu season in which COVID-19 is still circulating.

Benjamin also emphasized the critical role of strong partnerships between colleges and their state and local public health authorities. 

“I think none of this happens without a robust, well-resourced and trained public health system,” Benjamin testified.

Other panelists during the Senate hearing included Mitchell Daniels, JD, president of Purdue University in Indiana; Christina Paxson, PhD, president of Brown University in Rhode Island; and Logan Hampton, PhD, president of Lane College, a historically black college in Tennessee.

A recording of the “COVID-19: Going Back to College Safely” hearing, as well as a copy of Benjamin’s full testimony, is available on the Senate committee site. For more detailed COVID-19 guidance for colleges and universities, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Written by Sophie Wazlowski, Strategic Communications intern, APHA.