Dr. Anthony Fauci says sending sick college students home is 'the worst thing you can do'

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Thursday, September 3, 2020
Fauci says this is the 'worst thing you can do'
What happens if there are coronavirus cases on campus this fall? Dr. Anthony Fauci offered a grim hypothetical situation and a suggestion for colleges.

When a student gets sick with COVID-19, most colleges and universities have leaned on sending that person back to their hometown.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the prominent faces of the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak, said campuses are making a mistake with this move, telling NBC's "The Today Show" that it would be "the worst thing you can do."

"Keep them at the university in a place that's sequestered enough from the other students, but don't have them go home because they could be spreading it in their home state," he said.

Fauci's statement on Wednesday buoyed the advice offered just days before by Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

"Please isolate at your college," Birx said at a news conference this past weekend. "Do not return home if you're positive and spread the virus to your family, your aunts, your uncles, your grandparents."

She repeated that recommendation in a conference call to U.S. governors.

"It's really important that you check in with your university presidents to make sure they also have an isolation and care plan for students who become positive, even if they have moved to online," Birx said in audio obtained by ABC News. "It's really important that these students are continuously tested, isolated and cared for and don't return to their multi-generational households where they could dramatically increase spread, particularly over the Labor Day weekend."

The warnings from the nation's top experts are coming in the wake of additional outbreaks rising on campuses.

James Madison University in Virginia moved to a primarily remote curriculum through at least the end of this month due to a "rapid increase in the number of positive cases." It reported more than 600 confirmed cases since classes started late last month.

Elsewhere, the University of Mississippi reported nearly 350 cases since students began moving into dorms since the middle of August. As of Wednesday, data by the university showed 16 active outbreaks inside campus housing.

ABC News contributed to this report.