LONDON, ONT -- Post-secondary institutions and the return of larger student populations were front and centre in a recent study that looked at COVID-19 infection rates in university towns.

“We knew that university students are a high contact population, they’re going to result in a high number of cases,” says Lauren Cipriano from Western's Ivey Business School and the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry.

The study, conducted out of Western's Ivey Business School predicts the return of students could double the number of COVID-19 infections in the city over a single semester.

“University students have a high rate of asymptotic infections so many of them are going to be transmitting this virus to others without knowing,” says Cipriano, who adds students won’t just be spreading it amongst their social circles.

“We are all connected and we know those cases will transfer over into the community and into populations that are at high risk for hospitalization and death."

The study findings recommend in order to slow the spread high frequency screening in the post secondary population is key.

Even though high frequency screening of large student populations is a challenge, the research team says it has been done and proven successful in other post secondary institutions, specifically in the U.S.

“We looked at a strategy of a mass testing campaign on one day to see if that would make a difference in changing the trajectory in our community, and it would.”

Cipriano says her team has shared their findings with Western administration along with other post secondary institutions. She’s hopeful the recommendations will be considered to help flatten the infection rate as we move into fall.