COVID-19 cases are spiking in these college towns—even as the U.S. trends downward
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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 name||County||City||State||Increase in county|
|University of Iowa||Johnson||Iowa City||Iowa||170|
|University of Texas Rio Grande Valley||Hidalgo||Edinburg||Texas||141|
|South Texas College||Hidalgo||McAllen||Texas||141|
|University of Houston||Harris||Houston||Texas||124|
|University of Houston-Downtown||Harris||Houston||Texas||124|
|Houston Baptist University||Harris||Houston||Texas||124|
|Texas Southern University||Harris||Houston||Texas||124|
|University of Houston-Clear Lake||Harris||Houston||Texas||124|
|University of St Thomas||Harris||Houston||Texas||124|
|University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston||Harris||Houston||Texas||124|
|University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center||Harris||Houston||Texas||124|
|Drake University||Polk||Des Moines||Iowa||122|
|Texas A&M University||Brazos||College Station||Texas||90|
|University of Massachusetts Boston||Suffolk||Boston||Mass.||87|
|Massachusetts College of Art and Design||Suffolk||Boston||Mass.||87|
|Pine Manor College||Suffolk||Chestnut Hill||Mass.||87|
|Wentworth Institute of Technology||Suffolk||Boston||Mass.||87|
|University of Alabama||Tuscaloosa||Tuscaloosa||Ala.||83|
|East Carolina University||Pitt||Greenville||N.C.||78|
|Iowa State University||Story||Ames||Iowa||78|
|University of Notre Dame||St. Joseph||Notre Dame||Ind.||76|
|Saint Mary’s College||St. Joseph||Notre Dame||Ind.||76|
|Indiana University South Bend||St. Joseph||South Bend||Ind.||76|
|Purdue University – Purdue Polytechnic South Bend||St. Joseph||South Bend||Ind.||76|
|North Carolina State University||Wake||Raleigh||N.C.||75|
|William Peace University||Wake||Raleigh||N.C.||75|
|Saint Augustine’s University||Wake||Raleigh||N.C.||75|
|University of South Carolina||Richland||Columbia||S.C.||71|
|Illinois State University||McLean||Normal||Ill.||66|
|Illinois Wesleyan University||McLean||Bloomington||Ill.||66|
|University of Alabama at Birmingham||Jefferson||Birmingham||Ala.||64|
|Boston College||Middlesex||Chestnut Hill||Mass.||63|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Middlesex||Cambridge||Mass.||63|
|University of Massachusetts Lowell||Middlesex||Lowell||Mass.||63|
|Framingham State University||Middlesex||Framingham||Mass.||63|