03/22: What is the best COVID-19 testing strategy for large universities?

COVID-19 outbreaks have rippled across American colleges and universities during the Fall 2020 semester. However, most institutions do not have the funding, resources, or infrastructure to test its students routinely and at a high frequency. A study at Clemson University implemented two testing strategies to reduce the spread of the pandemic: first, a surveillance-based informative testing (SBIT) strategy, followed by a repeated weekly surveillance testing model. The SBIT strategy has random surveillance testing that can identify COVID-19 outbreaks in specific residence hall floors or buildings, then target these areas for further testing. The models developed from this study showed that without SBIT and only a voluntary testing system, there would have been a 154% increase in cases during the semester. SBIT also resulted in a 24% decrease in cases compared to random surveillance testing alone. While repeated weekly testing was shown to be most effective and could have resulted in 36% fewer cases compared to SBIT, it requires twice as many daily tests. Thus, for colleges and universities without the resources to employ the repeated weekly testing program, SBIT was found to be a pragmatic, next-best testing strategy.