US universities adopt strategies for controlling coronavirus spread


Students arriving for the fall semester at the University of Arizona were required on arrival to take a rapid COVID-19 test. Those testing negative could proceed to move into their dorms and begin campus life; those testing positive were required to spend ten days in a special isolation dorm and take classes online. The university also set up wastewater sampling to provide an early warning system to detect emerging hot spots. The system enabled the university to detect and isolate two cases before anyone else became infected. As the US seeks to ramp up testing in order to tamp down its burgeoning epidemic, numerous different types of tests are being developed and deployed. In addition to known tests such as PCR, lateral-flow tests are being developed to work on saliva rather than a nasal swab; these are less accurate than PCR tests, though efforts are underway to improve accuracy using novel techniques such as gene editing (CRISPR). Tests won’t enable life to return to normal, but they can help block spread. For the future, disease surveillance will need to be more deeply embedded in American life.

Writer: Drake Bennett and Michelle Fay Cortez; Poppy Noor
Publication: Bloomberg; Guardian