At Least 6,300 COVID-19 Cases Linked to 270 U.S. Colleges, Reveals a NYTimes Survey

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 6,300 cases have been linked to a group of roughly 270 U.S. colleges, reveals a survey published Wednesday by The New York Times, which also noted that the data is “almost certainly an undercount.” The group includes public four-year colleges, some research universities and some private institutions that compete in Division I sports.

Coronavirus 4952102 640Of the nearly 1,000 institutions initially contacted, hundreds did not respond, while others posted case information online,  provided full or partial numbers, or “refused to answer basic questions, citing privacy concerns.” For schools that did provide information, few included details on how and when the virus was contracted.

With no standardized reporting method regarding COVID-19 infection rates at U.S. colleges and no nationally tracked data published to the public either, the Times says its survey is particularly crucial given that “coronavirus infections on campuses might go unnoticed if not for reporting by academic institutions themselves because they do not always show up in official state or countywide tallies, which generally exclude people who have permanent addresses elsewhere, as students often do.”

“[The survey] shows the risks colleges face as they prepare for a school year in the midst of a pandemic,” writes the Times. “But because universities vary widely in size, and because some refused to provide information, comparing case totals from campus to campus may not provide a full picture of the relative risk. What is clear is that despite months of planning for a safe return to class, and despite drastic changes to campus life, the virus is already spreading widely at universities.”