In a new study published in Scientific Reports, researchers found that splitting the spring break into small breaks instead of the traditional nine-day break can help reduce COVID-19 cases on campus by 2% to 37% when students return. To learn more contact The Conversation Naveen K. Vaidyaa co-author of the study and an expert in mathematical modeling, to predict how infectious diseases spread, and to get his guess on whether a traditional spring break this year will be safe.
What happened in 2021 at colleges that offered a regular spring break?
Many of them had increases after the spring break, but the levels varied.
The magnitude of the increase depended on several variables. One of the most important factors was how many students from campus traveled, and if so, whether they went to a destination with a high incidence of COVID-19 cases.
But data from the spring of 2021 provide only limited insight because most universities offered online or hybrid classes at the time, so not all high schools had students returning from the spring break to campus. In addition, many implemented post-spring break protocols, such as two-week quarantines and mandatory regular tests.
That first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine had began to be administered before the spring break last year. Also the delta variant, which significantly affected younger peoplewas already circulating elsewhere in the world and was emerging in the United States
Some schools canceled the traditional spring holidays and some tried to do so slow the expected bump in the case of COVID-19, when students returned to campus. For example, the University of California at Berkeley required students living on campus to be quarantined for 10 days after the spring break. University of California, Davis reduced student travel by offering a $ 75 gift card to students to receive a “staycation” on campus in the spring holidays. About 2,500 students took up the university on its offer.
Is the spring break safe for this year?
We do not know. The spring break itself is not the problem, but it can become problematic based on other variables, such as how many students travel and whether they travel to places where there is a relatively high incidence of COVID-19 cases.
Based on these variables and ours model simulations, splitting the spring break into shorter breaks instead of the usual nine-day break could reduce COVID-19 cases between 2% and 37%. However, the actual percentage is likely to be affected by the presence of the more transmissible omicron variant and by the fact that many more people have been vaccinated than at this point last year.
What kind of destinations should students avoid?
If students are traveling, they should consider going to places where the incidence of COVID-19 cases is relatively low and the proportion of people vaccinated is relatively high. People can check with public websites or other sources, such as Johns Hopkins University & Medicines Coronavirus Resource Centerto see the status of vaccination rates at a specific location.
A vacation plan with multiple outdoor activities will be beneficial because the virus is less likely to be transmitted outdoors. Getting in touch with fewer people and wearing masks during the trip can also help reduce exposure to COVID-19.
Do you expect COVID-19 cases to increase on campuses when students return?
Yes, that’s what our model predicts and what many universities experienced last year. It should be noted, however, that students may have already been vaccinated, probably even with a booster, as mandate of many universitieswhich can also reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Also, two years of the pandemic could to some extent have taught people to observe safer practices when they are in a crowd, such as keeping distance from people, wearing a mask properly, and washing hands frequently.
While some increases in COVID-19 are expected after the spring break, policies are changing from high schools, such as incentives for students to avoid traveling, sending out frequent emails reminding students to wear a mask and reducing contacts, and a few days quarantine with frequent return tests can help limit potential increases.