10 College Towns Where COVID-19 Cases Are Surging

The return of students for in-person education has sparked major COVID surges in these college towns.

As college students return to campuses throughout the U.S. for in-person learning, universities are working on their feet to navigate the ongoing challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. In many college towns, there is growing concern that some traditional college activities—from drinking to partying to cheering at sporting events—could potentially lead to a surge in COVID-19 infections. As it turns out, those concerns are entirely justified: The New York Times recently listed the metropolitan areas with the most significant number of new COVID cases, relative to their population, in the last two weeks—and 1o of the top 11 locales seeing coronavirus surges are well-known college towns. Read on to discover which college towns have recently become coronavirus hotspots. And for more on the intersection of higher learning and coronavirus, These 5 Colleges Had the Biggest COVID Outbreaks.

Greenville, North Carolina

group of students walking outdoors on campus quad in purple clothing

Home to East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina cracks the top 10 college town COVID hot spots, with 1,212 recent coronavirus infections. Each fall, roughly 29,000 students return to Greenville, which has an approximate population of 181,000 residents. As of Aug. 31, Greenville has seen an average of 4.5 infections per 1,000 area residents over a two-week period. And for more insight into where COVID is spreading, These 4 States Should Lock Down Immediately, Harvard Researchers Say.

Grand Forks, North Dakota

aerial shot of grand forks, ND

The University of North Dakota reports an enrollment of nearly 14,000 students who return each fall to Grand Forks, a city of roughly 101,000 residents. Over the past two weeks, area public health officials have reported over 717 new COVID cases, according to The New York Times, meaning 4.7 people per 1,000 are infected.

Oxford, Mississippi

group of students sitting outside in the grass

Oxford is home to The University of Mississippi and well-known as one of the country's prettiest college towns. Over 22,000 Ole Miss students just returned to campus, joining Oxford's population of 54,000 year-round residents. According to The New York Times, Oxford has seen 354 recent cases of COVID-19, or an infection rate of 4.7 cases per 1,000 residents as of Aug. 31.

Pine Bluff, Arkansas

map of pine bluff arkansas

The University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff, is the smallest college to make this list, with just under 2,600 students in a city with a population of approximately 88,000. But despite the relatively small student population, local officials have reported over 660 new coronavirus infections over the past two weeks—a rate of 4.7 infections per 1,000 people.

Pullman, Washington

aerial shot of pullman, washington

Pullman, Washington only has 50,000 year-round residents, meaning the town's population increases by more than half each fall when approximately 31,000 Washington State University students return to campus. Over the past two weeks, the city has reported 340 new COVID-19 cases, which suggests an infection rate of 5.2 cases per 1,000 residents.

Statesboro, Georgia

map of statesboro georgia

Statesboro, Georgia, has roughly 80,000 residents—a number increased significantly each fall by the 26,000 Georgia Southern University students returning to campus. Over the past two weeks, Statesboro has recorded 524 new coronavirus infections, or a rate of 5.6 infections per 1,000 residents, according to The New York Times.

Milledgeville, Georgia

shot of administrative building at university of georgia

Home to Georgia College—which has a total enrollment of just under 7,000 students—Milledgeville has a year-round population of just over 53,000 residents. According to The New York Timesthere have been 502 new infections reported over the past two weeks, which translates to an infection rate of 6.1 cases per 1,000 people.

Auburn, Alabama

auburn unviersity entry sign on brick pathway

"War Eagle!" is the clarion call of Auburn University's 30,000 students—the very students who recently returned to Auburn-Opelika, Alabama, population 165,000—as classes resume. As of Aug. 31, 7.4 per 1,000 residents are testing positive for coronavirus, according to The New York Times, making it the third-worst COVID hotspot in the nation.

Iowa City, Iowa

shot of trees in fall at the university of iowa

Iowa City is the charming home of the University of Iowa and boasts the nation's second-worst outbreak of the coronavirus, according to The New York Times. The beautiful college town has a population of roughly 173,000 residents, with nearly 32,000 students calling the city home when classes are in session. As of Aug. 31, 7.6 of every 1,000 Iowa City residents are testing positive for COVID-19.

Ames, Iowa

stone sign at the entrance of iowa state university

Home to Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa has a population of roughly 97,000, which grows over 30 percent when school is in session, thanks to ISU's enrollment of nearly 35,000 students. Unfortunately for all of these residents, The New York Times just listed Ames as the hottest of coronavirus hotspots, as 8.2 residents per 1,000 are testing positive for COVID-19 as of Aug. 31. And for more insight into Iowa's COVID surge, This State Has Suddenly Become the Biggest Hotspot in the Country.

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