School Report Card: This week, Fauci tells colleges not to send students home; White House adviser calls COVID-19 school closures 'hysterical'

Officials at Utah State University discovered positive COVID-19 cases after conducting wastewater testing. (Photo: Getty Images)
Officials at Utah State University discovered positive COVID-19 cases after conducting wastewater testing. (Photo: Getty Images)

Students are headed back to class amid the coronavirus pandemic, and to keep you posted on what’s unfolding throughout U.S. schools — K-12 as well as colleges — Yahoo Life is running a weekly wrap-up featuring news bites, interviews and updates on the ever-unfolding situation.

287 Utah State University students have to quarantine after school detects COVID-19 in wastewater.

Utah State University in Logan announced on Sunday that wastewater testing at four residence halls revealed elevated levels of COVID-19, and 287 residents were tested and quarantined. As reported by Yahoo Life, the testing procedure analyzes sewage for copies of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 and may predict future outbreaks because viral shedding (when the virus is released through bodily fluids) occurs seven days before symptoms begin.

On Thursday, the university revealed that four of those residents have COVID-19 (38 staff and students are currently battling the infection). Utah State University isn’t the only school to use wastewater testing to prevent a campus outbreak. Last week, after the University of Arizona conducted wastewater testing throughout 20 of its buildings, including dorms, officials discovered two asymptomatic cases out of 311 tests.

The University of South Carolina suspends 15 students and six student organizations for violating quarantine.

On Tuesday, after 1,026 students and staff tested positive for COVID-19 at the University of South Carolina, president Bob Caslen criticized off-campus student behavior as “disappointing and unacceptable” in a community letter. As a result, he said, the school placed nine Greek houses under quarantine after some residents tested positive and issued interim suspensions for 15 students and four student organizations “for hosting unauthorized parties or large gatherings, or for not abiding by quarantine.”

White House pandemic adviser calls the U.S. approach to schools ‘hysterical.’

On Monday, White House pandemic adviser Dr. Scott Atlas joined Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the Capitol building in Tallahassee, saying that protecting high-risk people from COVID-19 should be the country’s focus, not otherwise healthy people who become infected.

“A way to look at it is, who is sick and how do we prevent the people who are highly vulnerable from getting sick?” Atlas said. “We also have to always remember, when you lock down and quarantine people who are healthy, but happen to be testing positive, you are creating enormous harms to them, to their family. We are the only country of our peer nations in the Western world who are this hysterical about opening schools.”

More than 6 million Americans are infected with the coronavirus, leading the world in positive cases. In Florida, where 637,013 people have tested positive and 11,650 have died from COVID-19 as of Thursday data, DeSantis was sued by a teachers’ union for violating a constitutional mandate that keeps schools safe.

A Montana preschool temporarily closes after a student tests positive.

On Monday, the Whitefish (Mont.) Community School announced on Facebook: “With heavy hearts we would like to inform the community that one of our precious little students has tested positive for COVID-19.” Although the school had been following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “this virus still found its way in.” The school is closed for two weeks, and anyone who has been in contact with the child has been in quarantine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci warns that schools with outbreaks shouldn’t send students home.

As more COVID-19 infections are reported at colleges and universities, many schools that are turning to online instruction are closing dormitories, forcing students to secure off-campus housing or return home. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, California State University, Chico, and James Madison University in Virginia are three recent examples. On Thursday, Temple University in Philadelphia, which reported 236 positive cases, suspended in-person classes, telling students that if they voluntarily move home by Sept. 13, they will be reimbursed for housing and food for the semester. “Others may want or need to remain on campus to access available resources or because individual or family circumstances (such as a family member with an underlying health condition) make it more prudent to stay,” Temple president Richard M. Englert wrote to students.

However, this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that turning students away worsens the pandemic.

“It’s the worst thing you can do,” he told Today on Wednesday. “Keep them at the university in a place that’s sequestered enough from the other students, but don’t have them go home because they could be spreading it in their home state.”

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx issued similar advice. “Please isolate at your college,” she said in an Aug. 29 press conference. “Do not return home if you’re positive and spread the virus to your family, your aunts, your uncles, your grandparents.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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Originally published