Coronavirus: Fauci, Birx urge colleges to keep students on campus amid COVID-19 outbreaks

1,000 students test positive for coronavirus at University of Alabama

As colleges and universities grapple with spikes in coronavirus cases, medical experts urged officials to keep students on campus instead of sending them home, to avoid the risk of further spreading the virus.

On Wednesday, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said sending students home amid outbreaks is “the worst thing you could do.”

“Keep them at the university in a place that’s sequestered enough from the other students,” he said during an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show. “Don’t have them go home because they could be spreading it in their home state.”

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On Tuesday, Dr. Deborah Birx, who serves as the White House coronavirus response coordinator, urged governors to check in with university presidents “to make sure they also have an isolation and care plan for students who become positive, even if they are moved online,” according to ABC News. Days earlier she had urged college students who have tested positive for COVID-19 to stay on campus.

“Do not return home if you’re positive and spread the virus to your family, your aunts, your uncles, your grandparents,” Birx said Sunday at a news conference, according to ABC News.

Last month, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced a pivot to online learning after seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases on campus, according to The Washington Post. The school sent many students home just days after the campus reopened to students, the newspaper reported.

Other schools, including Maryland’s Towson University and North Carolina’s East Carolina University, followed suit, according to Bloomberg News.

More than 26,000 coronavirus cases have been reported at over 750 colleges and universities nationwide since the start of the pandemic, according to a count published late last month by The New York Times. The United States leads the world with the most coronavirus cases and the highest death toll. Since the start of the pandemic, officials have confirmed more than 6.1 million infections and reported more than 185,000 deaths nationwide, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

As of Thursday, more than 26 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide and more than 863,000 people have died of the viral infection, according to Johns Hopkins.