From late July through September, students from more than 2,400 colleges and universities went back to campus to participate in what has ultimately become an American experiment in how institutions of higher education can operate during a pandemic.
It has been a few weeks since the most dramatic effects of college reopening have been seen, and in the time since, research has started to show that inviting students back to college probably led to a rise in Covid-19 cases in the US.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that young adults ages 18 to 22 saw a 55% increase nationally in Covid-19 cases in August.
Ana Bento, an infectious disease expert with Indiana University’s School of Public Health and co-author of the study, said that the influx of cases was largely driven by the “increase in flow of individuals from other parts of the country to campus”.
Schools that invited students back for in-person classes saw a larger flow of students than schools that kept everything online, Bento said, even if students were coming back to campus to live off-campus or be with friends for the latter scenario.
Bento said that the rise in cases from college reopenings was mostly seen at the beginning of the school year when students were just coming on to campus. Now, schools have hit a plateau in the total number of cases after administrators implemented policies that probably averted more cases.