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American College Health Association releases new guidelines on reopening campuses in COVID-19 era

The American College Health Association (ACHA) released on May 8 its new guidelines, Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education in the COVID-19 Era. Prepared by a special subcommittee of the ACHA COVID-19 Task Force, these guidelines provide recommendations to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection and a recurrent surge of infections as social distancing measures are relaxed on campuses and in communities and as plans are made for the physical return of large numbers of students, faculty and staff.

COVID-19 is a concern for college and university officials due to the potential for rapid transmission in a congregate setting within campus environments. While physical distancing practices are currently in place on nearly all campuses, a second wave of infections may occur if campuses reopen in the coming months without being fully prepared. These guidelines address considerations for preparing the campus on multiple fronts, from the student health service, mental health services, health promotion, and other key areas of campus, including housing and dining services and athletics. Working in concert, these broad areas provide campus leadership with surveillance capability, an infection prevention and control strategy, and a means to quickly identify, isolate, treat, and refer individuals to mitigate a second wave of infection, and it is therefore critical for institutions to have campus-wide preparations in place.

“At present, many institutions have tentative plans to reopen their campus as the pandemic abates, and their ultimate goal is keeping all members of the campus community healthy and safe. ACHA is providing this guidance to aid institutions in their decision making and preparations,” says task force chair Jean Chin, MD, MBA, FACP, FACHA. “We believe this new set of guidelines will help institutions determine the necessary steps and resources needed to safely welcome their students, faculty, and staff back to campus.”

“We know that a return to normalcy on our campuses and in our communities is far off, and ‘normal’ may never look like it did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, even as the future is uncertain, these guidelines provide campuses a roadmap for resuming operations while minimizing risk as much as possible for those who make up our campus community, including students, faculty and staff,” says Devin Jopp, EdD, Chief Executive Officer of ACHA. “We recognize that colleges and universities currently face a unique set of challenges, and ACHA will continue to provide resources like these guidelines to support campuses as they respond to the devastating effects of this pandemic.”

The new guidelines, Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education in the COVID-19 Era, can be downloaded here.