How to Safely Reopen Colleges and Universities During COVID-19: Experiences From Taiwan

Ann Intern Med. 2020 Oct 20;173(8):638-641. doi: 10.7326/M20-2927. Epub 2020 Jul 2.

Abstract

Reopening colleges and universities during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic poses a special challenge worldwide. Taiwan is one of the few countries where schools are functioning normally. To secure the safety of students and staff, the Ministry of Education in Taiwan established general guidelines for college campuses. The guidelines delineated creation of a task force at each university; school-based risk screening based on travel history, occupation, contacts, and clusters; measures on self-management of health and quarantine; general hygiene measures (including wearing masks indoors); principles on ventilation and sanitization; regulations on school assemblies; a process for reporting suspected cases; and policies on school closing and make-up classes. It also announced that a class should be suspended if 1 student or staff member in it tested positive and that a school should be closed for 14 days if it had 2 or more confirmed cases. As of 18 June 2020, there have been 7 confirmed cases in 6 Taiwanese universities since the start of the pandemic. One university was temporarily closed, adopted virtual classes, and quickly reopened after 14 days of contact tracing and quarantine of possible contacts. Taiwan's experience suggests that, under certain circumstances, safely reopening colleges and universities this fall may be feasible with a combination of strategies that include containment (access control with contact tracing and quarantine) and mitigation (hygiene, sanitation, ventilation, and social distancing) practices.