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COVID-19 cases are spiking in these college towns—even as the U.S. trends downward

September 1, 2020, 6:30 PM UTC

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The return of students to campuses across the U.S. is changing the landscape of pandemic America.

As new cases of coronavirus across the country trend downward, college towns dominate the list of places—accounting for the top 16 spots—where new cases of COVID-19 have increased the most in the past two-week period, according to a Fortune analysis of New York Times data.

Johnson County, Iowa, home to Iowa City and the University of Iowa where classes began last Monday, saw the biggest jump in new cases—up from an average of 17 per day two weeks ago to 184 per day in the week ending Aug. 30. After the reports of fast-rising cases and publication by the local media of photos of mask-less students teeming Iowa City’s bars last week, Iowa governor Kim Reynolds ordered all bars, night clubs, and other drinking venues in six counties—including those where Iowa, Iowa State, and Drake Universities are located—to close. (All three of those institutions are in counties that are among the 16 with the biggest increase in new coronavirus cases). The University of Iowa Health Care reported positivity rates well above 30% for multiple days last week.

Lee County, Alabama, where Auburn University is located—and where classes began Aug. 17—experienced the second largest increase in new cases—up from an average of 8 per day two weeks ago to 54 per day in the week ending Aug. 30. Sixteen players on the college’s football team are among those to have reportedly tested positive.

In total, counties with 113 colleges had reported at least 25 more coronavirus cases per day in the week ending Aug. 30 than two weeks prior.

In less populated areas, the return of students to campus has had an even greater impact in terms of overall coronavirus case numbers. The city of Radford, Virginia—the location of Radford University and roughly 9,400 students—had recorded just 68 cases as of Aug. 17; two weeks later, with students back on campus, the figure has increased by 465% to 348 cases for the year. The total number of cases reported year-to-date in Dawes County, Nebraska (population 8,700) have increased 329% in the two weeks ending Aug. 30. That’s the location of Chadron State College, a 3,000-student institution that has reported 27 positive cases among its student and faculty since Aug. 12. Whitman County, Washington has seen its case numbers soar by 258% in the past two weeks, reportedly due to the area’s student population. While the university has gone to remote classes this fall, many students have reportedly returned to off-campus housing nearby. Some of South Dakota’s college towns have also become hotspots, though case numbers remain relatively small.

Institutions in counties with largest increase of daily new cases

Additional new cases per day based on a seven-day average, Aug 17 – Aug. 30

Institution nameCountyCityStateIncrease in county
University of IowaJohnsonIowa CityIowa170
Auburn UniversityLeeAuburnAla.151
University of Texas Rio Grande ValleyHidalgoEdinburgTexas141
South Texas CollegeHidalgoMcAllenTexas141
University of HoustonHarrisHoustonTexas124
Rice UniversityHarrisHoustonTexas124
University of Houston-DowntownHarrisHoustonTexas124
Houston Baptist UniversityHarrisHoustonTexas124
Texas Southern UniversityHarrisHoustonTexas124
University of Houston-Clear LakeHarrisHoustonTexas124
University of St ThomasHarrisHoustonTexas124
University of Texas Health Science Center at HoustonHarrisHoustonTexas124
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer CenterHarrisHoustonTexas124
Drake UniversityPolkDes MoinesIowa122
Texas A&M UniversityBrazosCollege StationTexas90
Boston UniversitySuffolkBostonMass.87
Suffolk UniversitySuffolkBostonMass.87
Emmanuel CollegeSuffolkBostonMass.87
Northeastern UniversitySuffolkBostonMass.87
Emerson CollegeSuffolkBostonMass.87
University of Massachusetts BostonSuffolkBostonMass.87
Massachusetts College of Art and DesignSuffolkBostonMass.87
Pine Manor CollegeSuffolkChestnut HillMass.87
Simmons UniversitySuffolkBostonMass.87
Wentworth Institute of TechnologySuffolkBostonMass.87
University of AlabamaTuscaloosaTuscaloosaAla.83
East Carolina UniversityPittGreenvilleN.C.78
Iowa State UniversityStoryAmesIowa78
University of Notre DameSt. JosephNotre DameInd.76
Saint Mary’s CollegeSt. JosephNotre DameInd.76
Indiana University South BendSt. JosephSouth BendInd.76
Purdue University – Purdue Polytechnic South BendSt. JosephSouth BendInd.76
North Carolina State UniversityWakeRaleighN.C.75
Meredith CollegeWakeRaleighN.C.75
Shaw UniversityWakeRaleighN.C.75
William Peace UniversityWakeRaleighN.C.75
Saint Augustine’s UniversityWakeRaleighN.C.75
University of South CarolinaRichlandColumbiaS.C.71
Benedict CollegeRichlandColumbiaS.C.71
Illinois State UniversityMcLeanNormalIll.66
Illinois Wesleyan UniversityMcLeanBloomingtonIll.66
University of Alabama at BirminghamJeffersonBirminghamAla.64
Samford UniversityJeffersonBirminghamAla.64
Birmingham-Southern CollegeJeffersonBirminghamAla.64
Miles CollegeJeffersonFairfieldAla.64
Harvard UniversityMiddlesexCambridgeMass.63
Brandeis UniversityMiddlesexWalthamMass.63
Boston CollegeMiddlesexChestnut HillMass.63
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyMiddlesexCambridgeMass.63
University of Massachusetts LowellMiddlesexLowellMass.63
Bentley UniversityMiddlesexWalthamMass.63
Framingham State UniversityMiddlesexFraminghamMass.63
Lasell UniversityMiddlesexNewtonMass.63
Lesley UniversityMiddlesexCambridgeMass.63
Regis CollegeMiddlesexWestonMass.63
Tufts UniversityMiddlesexMedfordMass.63