Professor Zephyr Teachout and Winn Periyasamy ’22 collaborated on an op-ed for The Nation urging universities to open their facilities as makeshift hospitals or quarantine centers to help battle coronavirus.
The places that slowed the spread of Covid-19 made two efforts the United States is not making: testing everyone and offering quarantine centers. In Wuhan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, they didn’t just tell people to self-quarantine in their own houses; they provided places for at-risk people to live temporarily.
Needs will vary state to state and community to community. State governments can use legal authority to requisition and convert hotel and university facilities for quarantine shelters. And they should do so—seeing universities not just as extensions of field hospitals but as places for quarantine. At the same time, educational institutions should not wait for requests. By offering shelter proactively, they would expand the options available to cities and states and give them a far greater range of places to imagine quarantines and field hospitals. University spaces are now sitting vacant, as they have sent students, faculty, and nonessential staff home to combat the virus’s spread. These spaces can save lives.