Secretary Betsy DeVos
Department of Education

Vice President Mike Pence

Re: Coronavirus college closures???
03/15/2020
Dear Secretary DeVos:

I am a parent with 2 children in college, one in high school, and one out in the world as an independent adult.

While I am almost totally supportive of K-12 closures, I am having very mixed feelings about the college closures. I think the country would be better served by not closing colleges. Here are my thoughts:-

The college dorm or housing is the real home of a college student. That is where they go every night, except once every 3 months when they may come back to their parents home. If still in their college housing they would be interacting almost exclusively with other young adults, who supposedly have a low risk of hospitalization. If you push them back to their parents home, you are going to have a lot of bored young adults, who will wind up going out into the wider world a lot more than grade school kids who are being kept home, or even those same students when busy with their studies and at college. Every day they are home we risk 20 million of them scattered all over the country (and world) - instead of far fewer college campuses - bringing back the virus to elderly or vulnerable relatives with a high risk of hospitalization.

I think it would be better for the country, and for them, to keep their college housing open and let them stay there. Faculty (another high risk population) can be protected by having either online only classes, or by eliminating in person office hours and direct contact. A large lecture hall normally has a separate entrance for the lecturer, and anyway the students are way more than 6 feet away during a lecture.

Also, I live near UC Davis, and have had many opportunities to talk to students. It seems a lot of students (and I) had some nasty unknown bug around the mid-January timeframe, and are probably already immune to CoVID19 as a result. There is a test developed in Singapore that can tell whether somebody has been exposed in the past and has antibodies to CoVID19; unlike our current swab test that tells whether somebody is actively infected and shedding virus. So every semester end, the health system near a college can gear up for mass testing, and release students to go back home if they pass both tests. If they fail the current swab test they go into mandatory quarantine before they go home. If they pass the swab test, they can take the antibody test. If they have antibodies they can have confidence that they are immune, and the CDC will have more information about how many have already been infected. If they do not have antibodies, they can self quarantine to make sure they dont have a latent infection, especially if they have an at risk person in their parents home.

At some point to go back to normal our country will need to accept the disease as part of our lives. That will be when we have developed "herd immunity", either through vaccinations or prior infection. So I hate to say it, but keeping them in college housing would also give our country a relatively low risk way of getting a head start into developing the necessary "herd immunity" and getting back to normal.

I hope that you can fine tune your guidance to colleges after discussing these thoughts with Dr. Fauci.

Sincerely,