A New York Times survey of all four-year public colleges across the country, as well as all private institutions that participate in Division I sports or are members of an elite group of research universities, found revealed at least 6,300 cases linked to around 270 colleges. during the pandemic. And the new school year hasn’t even started in most schools.
Confirmed cases of coronavirus on college campuses
Note: Data as of July 28.
Outbreaks emerged on Greek Row this summer in Washington University, where at least 136 residents have been infected, and Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, where administrators were reassessing their plans for the fall after eight administrative workers tested positive.
The virus appeared in a science building in West Carolina, in the football team at Clemson and among the employees of University of Denver.
AT Appalachian State in North Carolina, at least 41 construction workers tested positive while working on campus buildings. The Times has identified at least 14 coronavirus-related deaths in colleges.
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* All reported cases involved the sports department.
Note: The charts show the cases per 100,000 population reported each week in the county where each school is located. Unless otherwise specified, the location of a university’s main campus is shown. In several cases, colleges noted that some cases were linked to secondary campuses or satellite locations.
There is no standardized reporting method for coronavirus cases and college deaths, and the information is not publicly tracked at the national level. Of the nearly 1,000 facilities the Times contacted, some had previously posted case information online, some provided full or partial numbers, and others declined to answer basic questions, citing privacy concerns . Hundreds of colleges did not respond at all.
Still, the Times investigation represents the most comprehensive look at the toll the virus has already taken on colleges and universities across the country.
Coronavirus infections on campuses might go unnoticed except for the academic institutions themselves, as they don’t always show up in official state or county counts, which typically excludes people who have a permanent address elsewhere, as students often do.
The Times investigation included four-year public schools in the United States, some of which are subject to public records laws, that are members of the Association of American Universities, or that compete at the highest level of college sports. It has yet to expand to include hundreds of other institutions, including most private schools and community colleges, where students, faculty and staff are grappling with the same tough decisions.
Among the colleges that provided the information, many did not provide any details on who contracted the virus, when they became ill, or if a case was linked to a larger outbreak. It is possible that some cases were identified months ago, at the very beginning of the epidemic in the United States, before the in-person learning was interrupted, and that others involve students and employees who were not on campus recently.
Back to campus
This data, which is almost certainly an undercount, shows the risks colleges face as they prepare for a school year in the midst of a pandemic. But because universities vary widely in size and because some have refused to provide information, comparing case totals across campuses may not give a complete picture of relative risk.
What is clear is that despite months of planning for a safe return to class and despite drastic changes in campus life, the virus is already spreading widely in universities.
Some institutions, like the California State University system, have most fall courses online. Others, including those in the Patriot League and the Ivy League, have decided against hosting fall sports. But many institutions are still planning to welcome freshmen to campus in the coming days, run in-person classes, and host sporting events.
Fall Education Plans
The graph shows how schools with reported coronavirus cases plan to offer education for the fall semester, according to a database from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Hover or tap the circles to see the schools.
Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education. Data as of July 28.
At University of Texas at Austin, where more than 440 students and employees have tested positive since the spring, in-person classes will be capped at 40 percent of capacity and final exams will be taken online.
AT Peruvian State College in Nebraska, where there have been no known cases, classes are expected to resume on schedule, but with intensified cleaning procedures and a recommendation for dorm residents to wear masks in common areas.
the University of Georgia announced plans for in-person classes despite the increase in deaths from the virus in the state. The university has recorded at least 390 infections involving students, faculty and staff.
O’Bryan Moore, an elder at the school, expressed concern for the safety of his classmates and teachers. He said he was skeptical that students would largely follow the guidelines to wear masks once they return in August.
“There’s no way I can see this end without outbreaks on campus,” said Moore, who is studying to be a ranger.
Mr Moore said online classes weren’t as effective as in-person classes, but he still hoped the university would change its plans to get students back to campus.
“I think we should stay online during this semester, even if it will hurt my studies,” he said. “Because it’s the right thing to do.”
As students have started to return to campuses in recent weeks, early returns have been troubling. After 10 students tested positive this month at University of West Virginia, officials pledged to thoroughly clean up areas of campus where they were. AT Kansas State University, off-season football training was halted last month after an outbreak in the team.
High-risk sports departments
Many of the early arrivals on campus were athletes hoping to compete this fall. A separate Times survey of the 130 universities that compete at the highest level of Division I football found more than 630 cases across 68 campuses among athletes, coaches and other employees.
Coronavirus cases in Division I athletics departments
As universities prepare for the fall semester – online, in person, or a mix of both – administrators have had to assess changing directions in public health and financial and academic concerns, as well as the harsh reality that some students and faculty members are likely to test positive regardless of how the classes are organized.
“There’s just no way to completely eliminate the risk, whether we’re in person or online,” Cornell president Martha E. Pollack wrote in a letter explaining the decision to bring students back on the job. campus.