Opinion Piece by David Wippman and 

Mr. Wippman is the president of Hamilton College and Dr. Altschuler is a professor at Cornell.

“Colleges and universities like ours are hoping to reopen campuses and resume in-person instruction in the fall, but they face significant physical and logistical obstacles in protecting their students. Residential colleges are sometimes described as “landlocked cruise ships,” because students live, eat, study and socialize together, often in close quarters. Under ordinary circumstances, that is a good thing. But such tightly knit campus communities are tailor-made for spreading an easily transmissible illness like the coronavirus.

The American College Health Association and others have laid out a basic process for reopening: Test all students on arrival, then again after one to two weeks, and periodically throughout the semester (though where colleges will get all these tests and the personnel to administer them remains a mystery).

Isolate students who test positive, trace all close contacts and quarantine those exposed for two weeks. Maintain physical distancing protocols by reconfiguring residence halls, dining facilities, classrooms and other gathering places.

Require everyone to wear masks in public, insist on frequent hand-washing and good hygiene, disinfect high-touch spaces and surfaces regularly and restrict travel to and from campus. Identify adequate quarantine space, probably by reserving blocks of hotel rooms.

Doing all this is much easier said than done.

Reconfiguring physical spaces and controlling access to promote physical distancing will be complicated and costly. Achieving six feet of separation in classrooms, for example, may involve having half of the students attending in person on alternating days, while the other half joins remotely from residence halls.

Dining halls can have staggered shifts and expanded grab-and-go options. Schools can put limits on the number of tables, the number of students at each table and the number of diners at one time.”

Read the full article on NYTimes.com.

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