This One Thing Is Now Causing COVID Outbreaks in Every Single State

The mere act of going back to school for one age group has brought COVID clusters to every corner of the U.S.

So far, the winding down of summer has brought with it a national decline in new COVID cases after a peak in June and July. But the hard-fought successes against the coronavirus are now on the line, thanks to an end-of-summer tradition. Based on recent figures, the reopening of college campuses is currently causing COVID outbreaks in every single state. According to a report from CNN, more than 40,000 coronavirus cases have been reported among students and faculty at recently reopened colleges and universities. Now, data links newly reported outbreaks to at least one campus in each of the 50 states, with numbers expected to grow significantly due to a lag in reporting test results.

According to The New York Times, which collects data on COVID infections on college campuses across the U.S., cases are particularly high in a handful of states. The worst-hit places include Texas (6,106 cases at 63 schools), Alabama (4,093 cases at 17 schools), North Carolina (4,029 cases at 40 schools), and Georgia (3,692 cases at 28 schools).

students wearing masks in college lecture hall
Shutterstock/Syda Productions

Even with socially distanced outdoor classes and decreased capacity in dorms, students are still congregating at large gatherings—including one recent frat party at the University of New Hampshire with over 100 guests that created a cluster of cases in the state.

Smaller college towns in particular find themselves both at a higher risk of having their medical systems overwhelmed by localized coronavirus outbreaks and unable to control the behaviors of recently returned students. "The university does not govern what happens off-campus," Juan Marquez, medical director in Ann Arbor's Washtenaw County (home of the University of Michigan), told The Verge. "They can only do so much."

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The confirmation of coast-to-coast infection comes after weeks of highly publicized incidents and outbreaks that have forced colleges to reckon with the reality of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic. Many schools, such as the University of Wyoming, have continued to push back the return date for students. Others, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, decided to cancel all in-person classes for the semester after an outbreak developed just after students returned.

But some experts argue that the solution may not be as simple as pulling the plug on the academic year. Anthony Fauci, MD, recently said that sending college kids home from an infected campus could have dangerous consequences. "It's the worst thing you could do," he said during a Sept. 2 interview with Today. "When you send them home, particularly when you're dealing with a university where people come from multiple different locations, you could be seeding the different places with infection." And for more on what's risky during the pandemic, check out 24 Things You're Doing Every Day That Put You at COVID Risk.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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