With the COVID-19 pandemic still prevalent across the US, colleges and universities are facing an additional challenge – how to retain students and maintain aspects of an on-campus experience while also implementing restrictions that keep students, faculty, and staff safe. Although many institutes of higher education successfully implemented a new way of learning at the conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year there is a renewed sense of uncertainty as students, teachers and faculty prepare to begin another academic year.
As we have learned, COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough or sneeze as well as via hands from contaminated surfaces and then to nose or mouth.1 With these considerations, college and university officials must keep these important CDC guiding principles top of mind to lessen the risk of spreading COVID-19 on campus:
- Engage students in virtual only learning, activities, and events when possible
- When virtual only learning is not feasible, lessen the size of in-person classes, activities, and events
- — Consider implementing further protections by requiring social distancing of at least 6ft and staggering or rotating schedules of students to enable smaller class sizes
- — Place restrictions on large gatherings outside of the classroom
- Close or decrease capacity for residence halls and shared spaces where possible (including kitchens and communal areas)
In addition to these safety precautions, it is important to also help shift individual behaviors of students, faculty, and staff to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by encouraging these practices:
- Self-Isolating when appropriate
- — Encourage students, faculty, and staff to stay at home if symptoms of sickness are present
- Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
- — Recommend and reinforce the importance of handwashing / sanitizing and appropriate measures to contain respiratory droplets associated with coughs and sneezes
- Wearing Cloth Face Coverings
- — Promote protecting others by wearing cloth face coverings, especially when social distancing measures cannot be practiced
- Cleaning and Disinfecting of High-Touch Areas
- — Address frequently touched surfaces at least daily or between use as much as possible with products that meet EPA disinfection criteria to combat COVID-19
- Cleaning and Sanitizing of Food Contact Surfaces
- — Ensure food contact surfaces are properly cleaned and sanitized
- Stocking adequate supplies
- — For example, ample amounts of soap and paper products like paper towels and tissues, hand sanitizer containing 60% or more alcohol, disinfectants, and cloth face coverings
- Signs and Messages
- — Properly communicate via signage communicating about behaviors that mitigate the spread of COVID-19 (find downloadable signage on the CDC’s communications resource page).
Visit the CDC’s Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education webpage for guidance on creating a safe environment for learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.