College students may need COVID-19 testing every 2 days to contain virus, Yale researchers say

Testing students for COVID-19 more frequently using a less sensitive test may be the most cost-effective way to control the virus on college campuses this fall, according to research published on the medical preprint server medRxiv.

Researchers at New Haven, Conn.-based Yale University modeled various testing strategies for a hypothetical group of 5,000 uninfected college students in an 80-day semester. Models varied based on the frequency, sensitivity, specificity and cost of testing. 

Screening students for COVID-19 daily using a test with 70 percent sensitivity would limit infections to just 85 a semester, costing about $920 per student. Testing students every two days would limit infections to 135 over the same time period and cost about $470 per person. In contrast, screening students just once a week would result in more than 3,600 cases. 

"Rapid, inexpensive and frequently conducted screening (even if only 70 percent sensitive) would be cost-effective and produce a modest number of COVID-19 infections," researchers said. "While the optimal screening frequency hinges on the success of behavioral interventions to reduce the base severity of transmission, this could permit the safe return of student[s] to campus."

The research has not been peer-reviewed. 

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