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Managing the Risk From COVID-19 During a Return to On-Site University Research

Managing the Risk From COVID-19 During a Return to On-Site University JSR-20-NS1 July 2, 2020 Distribution Statement A: Approved for Public Release. Distribution is unlimited. JASON The MITRE Corporation: “…After months of allowing only essential personnel on campus, universities have begun to ramp up research and allow typically a fraction of their researchers back on campus. The operations must evolve to keep the basic reproduction number, R, less than one in order to allow future increases in personnel density. This report outlines several different means of lowering the basic reproduction number, which are summarized in this section. A low basic reproduction number relies on individuals recognizing the danger of COVID-19 and taking the recommended actions: washing hands, wearing face masks, keeping a minimum six foot separation from others, minimizing multiple occupancy in rooms, and tracking their own health. Universities must encourage these actions through signage, training, and modeling of good behavior by leaders. Face masks are particularly important.

  • Key Finding: Mask use can be highly effective as one component of risk reduction strategies for COVID-19 infection and transmission. However, mask effectiveness is variable, depending on the materials, designs and user discipline in wearing the masks.  Key Recommendation: Universities should provide masks that meet demonstrated technical performance at the levels needed, even if the level of performance exceeds that required by the city or state. Training should be provided on how to properly wear masks.
  • Key Finding: The use of a campus-wide “infographic” or “dashboard” showing the on-campus population, virus testing statistics, and information on the compliance with COVID-19 rules will create a shared situational awareness. In this pandemic, universities are not islands and the reproduction number on-campus will not be very different than that of the surrounding community. If the R of the surrounding community changes, the university may need to changes its on-campus density.
  • Key Finding: Universities will influence and be subject to disease dynamics of the larger communities within which they are embedded. Key Recommendation: Universities should engage with state and local officials to understand the exposure of their personnel both on and off cam2 Managing the Risk from COVID-19 July 2, 2020 pus. Universities can make use of daily symptom attestation to detect emerging cases and track the health of the population. Daily symptom attestation can reduce disease spread beyond what can be accomplished with individual mitigation behaviors such as wearing masks…”

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