Story at a glance
- A new CNN tally reports approximately 40,000 COVID-19 cases among colleges and universities in the U.S.
- Schools are encouraged to help quarantine students so as to not propagate the virus spread.
A new CNN tally reveals that across U.S. universities and colleges, 40,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed among students, faculty and staff.
With fall academic semesters being well underway, schools have tinkered with different approaches. Some schools, like Harvard and Johns Hopkins, are operating completely remotely for the last portion of 2020.
Other schools decided to reopen while also adopting public health measures based on advice from infectious diseases experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The University System of Georgia, for instance, announced in July that all affiliated campuses must implement mandatory mask-wearing among students and faculty.
Despite such preventative measures, college towns are erupting into hotspots for COVID-19 transmission. The Texas Tribune reports that multiple counties that house large four-year universities have reported outbreaks since reopening for the fall. The next step for administration officials is to then prevent those outbreaks from expanding to the communities outside the school.
One of the key components that enables the virus’s transmission among the student body are the shared living spaces and dormitories that house students. Earlier in August, several universities in North Carolina, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, ultimately shut down their campuses and shifted to online learning as coronavirus cases multiplied.
Colleges and universities are “places where we’re starting to see a lot of spread,” Stephen Kissler, an infectious diseases researcher at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said. “Of course, diseases don’t stay isolated in the populations where they start. That’s the big concern lately, trying to make sure the virus doesn’t spread into the surrounding community.”
In response to these outbreaks, White House Coronavirus Task Force member Deborah Birx encouraged state governors to allocate resources to accommodate infected or potentially ill students in on-campus housing so they do not return home and spread the virus outside the campus.
“Sending these individuals back home in their asymptomatic state to spread the virus in their hometown or among their vulnerable households could really re-create what we experienced over the June time frame in the South,” Birx reportedly explained. “So I think every university president should have a plan for not only testing but caring for their students that need to isolate.”