During a week in which coronavirus cases spiked on campuses nationwide, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease doctor, identified the next superspreading event during an interview with actress Jennifer Garner—warning the institutions as well as individuals who could be propagating them. Read on to see how to stay safe, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
College Campuses are the Ideal Settings for Superspreading Events
According to research published by the CDC, superspreading events have been responsible for a great deal of coronavirus spread over the course of the pandemic. Unfortunately, many SSE events "appear to be difficult to predict and therefore difficult to prevent." One of the key ways to prevent these types of events from occurring is identifying potential dangerous scenarios and promptly taking action to keep them from happening. "Core public health actions can prevent and reduce the number and impact of SSEs," say researchers.
According to Dr. Fauci, college campuses are the ideal setting for superspreading events. He explains that many of the schools who have opted for in-class learning are bringing students in from all over the country. "They test all of them before they allow them into the campus and in the dorm. If they're negative, great. If they're positive, they isolate them until they turn negative. Once they get everybody negative, they do surveillance testing maybe every other day, a couple of times a week," he explains.
However, the "critical issue" is that some schools don't have the "capability" of separating potentially infected students from the rest of the community.
"When a student at a university with dormitories in common living, when they get infected, you have to have the capability of isolating them away from the other students. Namely, you get a floor of the dormitory—or some colleges are devoting an entire dormitory to keep people there for the 12 days, 10 days or whatever it is that they need to be isolated," he says.
And, the biggest potential for a superspreading event is sending potentially sick students back home. "When you send them home, you're going to be seeding the community from which they came. And you're going to use the college campus as kind of a super spreader event. And you don't want to do that," Fauci explained.
RELATED: 11 Signs You've Already Had COVID-19
Young People Can Spread COVID-19
Most importantly, he wants to get the message across to younger people that they have the potential to be superspreaders.
"What I say to the young people, is that even though you're perceiving correctly—that the chances are that if you get infected, you're not going to get seriously ill statistically alone—even though don't be too confident because we're now seeing that people from 18 to 34 are having an increased incidence of hospitalization of late. But putting that aside, when you get infected as a young person, and you assume correctly that you're not going to get seriously ill, the natural response, which is innocent and you know, not doing anything evil or bad, you say I'm not hurting anybody. I get infected. I'm in a vacuum," he explains.
However, this isn't the case. "That's very much incorrect because you're not in a vacuum. The fact that you've allowed yourself to get infected means you are inadvertently and innocently propagating the outbreak. And when you propagate the outbreak, it doesn't stay with you because it is likely that you will infect someone else who'll infect someone else. And then all of a sudden, someone gets infected, who is vulnerable, someone's father and mother who has cancer chemotherapy, a woman who's getting radiation for breast cancer, a child with immunodeficiency."
"Even though you think you live in a vacuum, you have two types of responsibility," Dr. Fauci continues. "One is an individual responsibility to yourself. And the other is something that you have to accept as a member of society. You have a societal responsibility. You don't want to be part of the problem. You want to be part of the solution."
"Don't let caution to the wind because you're not only going to be hurting yourself. You're going to be propagating a bad thing, which is a pandemic."
RELATED: COVID Mistakes You Should Never Make
How to Avoid COVID-19
Dr. Fauci isn't wrong. Outbreaks at colleges and universities are quickly becoming the norm, just weeks into the school year. They have become such a problem area, that The New York Times has even devoted an entire infographic tracking the number of cases linked to colleges. Currently they estimate over 88,000 coronavirus infections at over 1,190 institutions across the country.
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask up, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, make sure your restaurant (if you must go to one) follows safety protocols, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.