College campuses grapple with COVID-19 outbreaks that are 'now here with us'

Aarthi Swaminathan
·3 min read

As colleges press on with their fall semester amid the coronavirus pandemic, cases are climbing.

There have been more than 130,000 cases of COVID-19 reported on more than 1,300 college campuses, as of September 25, according to recent New York Times data. Ohio has reported more than 7,000 cases at 48 schools. Between August 14 and September 22, Ohio State University reported 2,739 positive cases among students.

“In Ohio, to be clear, we do have increasing cases, which we’re seeing in a number of different college campuses and college towns,” Ohio State University’s Dr. J. Nwando Olayiwola told Yahoo Finance’s “The Ticker” in an interview this week.

“You’re seeing similar cumulative increases at” other schools, she added, “which is something we could have expected as we planned for the reopening, but it’s now here with us.”

A draft study authored by U.S. academics from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Indiana University, Davidson College, among others, found that between July 15 and September 13, in-person classes have been associated with more than 3,000 additional COVID-19 cases per day. The data was published this week on the preprint server medRxiv, and has not been reviewed.

However, the findings suggest that reopening face-to-face classes on college campuses may have sparked tens of thousands of new cases over the past few weeks.

The group used data from 1,404 colleges, cellular data from 20 million mobile devices, as well as the number of COVID-19 cases from daily state and county records. It traced how students moved around, and how the areas were affected by COVID-19 before and after the college reopened.

The “results indicate that reopening college campuses for in-person instruction is associated with more than 3000 additional cases of Covid-19 per day in the United States,” the academics wrote. They didn’t look at how many cases “spilled over” to the communities surrounding the college campuses.

Now that the virus is officially on campus, “there are a lot of things we need to do,” from social distancing to wearing masks to not gathering in large numbers, Dr. Olayiwola stated.

Because “we haven’t yet seen the impact of the cold weather and the changes that will come in the fall,” she said. “People may not be able to congregate outside, where the risks of a spread are lower, leading them indoors due to the cold, and that is compounded with the possibility of them contracting the flu.”

Aarthi Swaminathan is a reporter for Yahoo Finance covering education. If you have a story idea, or would like to share how your college or school is preparing to reopen, reach out to her at

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