The following was posted Saturday on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s live coronavirus page:
American college campuses have tallied nearly 400,000 cases of Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to new data collected by The New York Times. More than 85 campuses have reported at least 1,000 cases each, the Timesreported — with some logging well over 5,000. More than 75,000 of the cases have come since early November.
Perhaps more concerning than the sheer case volume, however, is the off-campus spread. The Times reported on Saturday that, according to an analysis of more than 200 counties with substantial college-student populations, overall Covid-19 deaths there have risen faster than elsewhere in the country. Deaths in those counties have doubled since the end of August, compared with a 58-percent increase elsewhere.
Public-health experts have long warned that the mass migration of college students back to campuses in August could result in dangerous levels of transmission to vulnerable people who live in those communities. The Times analysis suggests that this scenario — what one university spokesman called “our biggest fear” — has come to pass, at least in some areas.
Looking back to how the fall semester played out is valid, but the more pressing concern is what will happen during the initial weeks of the spring semester/winter quarter? Will campuses be able to reopen? Coronavirus cases continue to grow, but personal responsibility remains absent in too many places and the vaccine won’t be available to college faculty and students for weeks?