The coronavirus appears to be thriving in colleges, and as students head to school this fall, experts warn that they may also get an unwanted, first-hand education on how the virus spreads. As clusters of students from around the country congregate on university campuses, we’re already seeing outbreaks of COVID-19.
According to The New York Times, at least 6,000 cases were reported in 270 colleges across the country, and that was in late July, before the fall semester began. The Times said that these numbers are most likely an undercount, and predicted potential risks as schools reopened for the new school year amidst a pandemic.
According to Today, many institutions have already converted to virtual learning after experiencing outbreaks following shool openings. These include The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame. At Oklahoma State University, an entire sorority was put under quarantine as fall semester classes began after 23 members tested positive for the coronavirus.
Experts say that despite the best laid plans of colleges to employ safety precautions, many of the outbreaks are stemming from large gatherings off-campus and with students coming in from parts of the country where transmission is high, the risk of COVID-19 skyrockets.
Dr. Marissa Levine, professor of public health at the University of South Florida, in Tampa, says that young people often think they are invincible and for freshman, who are exploring new worlds away from home, they are not paying close attention to COVID-19.
In order to bring awareness to college students, she suggests asking the following questions, according to Today:
*Assess your risk. Are there health issues that would put you or your family in jeopardy from COVID-19?
*What are the college protocols to contain the spread of the virus?
*How will the college handle testing and is it working with the local health department?
Levine said that virtual learning is ideal but acknowledged that this may not be the best solution for everyone.
“We’re exploring an experiment, if you will, of whether this can be done safely and it’s not clear yet whether that’s true,” she said, according to Today. “In some ways, it’s harder to open up and close down again so being patient and waiting might be good.”
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