A new analysis of data finds 19 of the 25 hottest coronavirus outbreaks are occurring in college towns
The topic of whether or not to bring college students back for in-person classes has been heated for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the summer, as cases peaked in many areas of the country, many schools opted against welcoming students back to campus for the 2020-2021 academic year. However, in early August, many universities around the country did reopen and in the last several weeks there have been numerous large outbreaks across the country linked to these schools, and students have even been suspended for engaging in risky coronavirus behavior. And, even scarier, according to a new analysis of data, the majority of the large coronavirus outbreaks in the country are centralized in college towns.
USA Today analyzed data from Johns Hopkins University, finding that of the 25 hottest outbreaks in the country, “communities heavy with college students” (aka big college towns) represent 19 of these outbreak areas. To identify the hottest spots they looked at those regions with the highest number of per capita infection rates in the country — 1,053 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the last two weeks.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) September 11, 2020
According to their findings, the 25 communities with the most COVID-19 cases per capita during the past two weeks are listed here alongside the college or university situated in the area, if any. As you can see, the majority of the list includes college campuses.
Harrisonburg, Virginia, James Madison University
Whitman County, Washington, Washington State University
Coryell County, Texas, Central Texas College
Bulloch County, Georgia, Georgia Southern University
Story County, Iowa, Iowa State University
Muskogee County, Oklahoma, None
Clarke County, Georgia, University of Georgia
Johnson County, Iowa, University of Iowa
Lafayette County, Mississippi, University of Mississippi
Grand Forks County, North Dakota, University of North Dakota
Starr County, Texas, None
Boone County, Missouri, University of Missouri-Columbia
Riley County, Kansas, Kansas State University
McLean County, Illinois Illinois State University
Payne County, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University-Main Campus
St. Francois County, Missouri, None
Champaign County, Illinois, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Leon County, Florida, Florida State University
Webb County, Texas, None
Montgomery County, Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Lubbock County, Texas, Texas Tech University
Pitt County, North Carolina, East Carolina University
Coles County, Illinois, Eastern Illinois University
Garfield County, Oklahoma, None
Burleigh County, North Dakota, None
Harrisonburg, Virginia — home of James Madison University — is currently leading the pack of the nation’s most significant outbreaks. According to USA Today, in just one week of classes, the college recorded over 700 COVID cases. On September 1 they changed course, pivoting to online instruction. However, the damage was done. In July, coronavirus infections in the city amounted to just 71 cases per 100,000 in July, and thanks to the school reopening, Harrisonburg is currently dealing with 1,562 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 — an overwhelming jump.
In just the past week, American colleges and universities have recorded more than 36,000 additional coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 88,000 since the pandemic began. @ShawnHubler @anemonanyc https://t.co/cljwQ6PYNN
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) September 12, 2020
Now that school has already started and COVID is spreading through campus, administrators are in a bind.
Both Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, have warned against sending kids back home from college. Why? It could propagate the spread even more.
“It’s the worst thing you can do,” Fauci pointed out during a recent interview with Today. “Keep them at the university in a place that’s sequestered enough from the other students.”
Great NYT visualization of Covid cases on campuses.
Any colleges still offering in-person classes need to go all online asap. Get serious about the health of your students & the broader community. https://t.co/EQ3TXE1euY
— Scott Galloway (@profgalloway) September 12, 2020
The situation at colleges and universities is so bad that the New York Times has devoted an entire infographic tracking the number of cases linked to them. Currently, there are over 88,000 cases at 1,190-plus schools across the country.
Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.