How Colleges Became the New Covid Hot Spots

Like meatpacking plants and nursing homes early in the pandemic, campuses across the country are experiencing outbreaks.

Credit...Cindy Schultz for The New York Times

It began last month with a trickle of coronavirus infections as college students arrived for the fall semester. Soon that trickle became a stream, with campuses reporting dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of new cases each day.

Now that stream feels like a flood. In just the past week, a New York Times survey has found, American colleges and universities have recorded more than 36,000 additional coronavirus cases, bringing the total of campus infections to 88,000 since the pandemic began.

Not all of those cases are new, and the increase is partly the result of more schools beginning to report the results of increased coronavirus testing. But The Times survey of 1,600 institutions also shows how widely the contagion has spread, with schools of every type and size, and in every state, reporting infections.

Public health experts say the rising number also underscores an emerging reality of the pandemic: Colleges and universities have, as a category, become hot spots for virus transmission, much as hospitals, nursing homes and meatpacking plants were earlier in the year.

“This is completely predictable,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, adding that he and his peers have been “talking to each other since July, if not before, about what’s going to happen when the colleges open up.”

Universities have struggled financially since March, when the threat of the virus forced students to disperse for their safety. Hoping to salvage some sense of normalcy — along with lost revenue from housing fees and out-of-state tuition — many schools have invested heavily in health measures to bring back at least some students to campus with the promise of in-person classes and independent living in dorm rooms.

Those plans have been fluid, however, as outbreaks have forced course corrections at campus after campus. It has been sobering, college administrators say, to realize how quickly the virus can spread from a few index cases to dozens or even hundreds of students who have been exposed, if not infected.

The State University of New York at Oneonta sent students home after the virus spun out of control in less than two weeks, with more than 500 cases. Notre Dame opened in-person classes for its 12,000 students on Aug. 10; eight days into the semester, after cases soared, it moved classes online for two weeks and hired security personnel to ensure compliance with quarantine rules. It has now resumed in-person teaching.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, only about 60 of the campus cases have resulted in death — mostly of college staff members — and only a small number have resulted in hospitalizations. But what has happened on campus hasn’t stayed on campus.

A New York Times review last weekend of 203 “college town” counties where students comprise at least 10 percent of the population found that about half had experienced their worst weeks of the pandemic as students returned in August, and about half of those were experiencing peak infections this month.

Even schools with state-of-the-art mitigation plans have been challenged by outbreaks. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for instance, imposed a lockdown last week after a sharp uptick in cases, even though the college requires its 40,000 students to take coronavirus tests twice a week.

Over the past week, case counts have continued to grow at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln — even as the university has suspended several fraternities and sororities for parties — and nearly doubled at the University of Missouri in Columbia, which added more than 540 cases, according to the campus newspaper.

At California State University Chico, which allowed only a small fraction of students to return to campus, cases rose by more than 60 percent — even though the last of its in-person classes had been canceled and its dormitories housed only a handful of needy students. About 14 percent of Illinois State University’s 1,300-plus cases have been added this week.

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Credit...Carin Dorghalli/The Chico Enterprise-Record, via Associated Press

Schools have scrambled, hoping to contain outbreaks until Thanksgiving, when most students are scheduled to go home until next year or pivot to remote instruction. Texas Christian University postponed the opening game of its football season. The University of Wisconsin-Madison paused its in-person classes. The University of Alabama has started randomly testing 3 percent of the campus population weekly and has penalized more than 600 students for violating a ban on gathering on or off campus, suspending 33 students.

But Alabama, whose Tuscaloosa campus has suffered one of the nation’s more significant college outbreaks, has not opted to repeatedly test the entire student population, unlike some other schools where the virus is spiking. Dr. Hanage cautioned that few campuses will make it through the semester with in-person classes without rigorous screening.

Listen to ‘The Daily’: Quarantine on a College Campus

Higher education institutions have become the latest coronavirus hot spots in the United States. One student’s story illustrates the issues with reopening.
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transcript

Listen to ‘The Daily’: Quarantine on a College Campus

Hosted by Megan Twohey, produced by Eric Krupke and Rachelle Bonja, and edited by Lisa Tobin

Higher education institutions have become the latest coronavirus hot spots in the United States. One student’s story illustrates the issues with reopening.

megan twohey

From The New York Times, I’m Megan Twohey. This is “The Daily.”

Early in the pandemic, nursing homes, jails and meatpacking plants were the sites of coronavirus outbreaks across the country. Now, as some students have returned to campuses for the fall semester, the new hot spots are colleges and universities. My colleague, Natasha Singer, has the story of one school and one student.

It’s Wednesday, September 16.

So Natasha, tell me how you came to find Zoie.

natasha singer

So in August, we started receiving what I would call these S.O.S. messages from students at universities.

And we got these messages because we have a system called Tip Jar, where readers who want to be whistleblowers or who just have complaints or who want to give us tips about things to look into can write to us anonymously. So these messages started coming from different campuses of college students who were sequestered in these special dorms for students who test positive for coronavirus. And they were describing being kind of trapped in these filthy conditions, in quarantine dorms with, like, dead bugs and mold in the walls, and, like, leaking bathrooms. But also, they felt like they’d been abandoned. That the university had sort of cut them off to keep them from being contagious and infecting anybody else and then forgotten about them.

megan twohey

Wow.

tiktok clip (college student)

Good morning, TikTok. So I’m quarantined in my N.Y.U. dorm room for two weeks, and I can’t leave. And they bring us meals every day.

natasha singer

And so I decided I would try to find some students who were in quarantine and isolation on college campuses.

tiktok clip (college student)

It’s 11:15. And I just got my breakfast. So let’s see what it is. Because so far the food has been questionable.

natasha singer

And I looked at TikTok, because we’d been seeing all these videos of kids on TikTok complaining about bad meals.

tiktok clip (college student 1)

For breakfast that was delivered at 12:30 — warm grape juice. Mystery vegan muffin. Oat bar. An unripe orange.

tiktok clip (college student 2)

But is anyone else who goes to the University of Michigan just, like, what the [EXPLETIVE] is happening right now? And, like, terrified —

natasha singer

In addition to that, there were these students who were complaining about more profound things.

tiktok clip (college student 1)

I think N.Y.U. saw my TikTok last night. Because it is currently 2:00 p.m. And they have not fed me all day.

tiktok clip (college student 2)

We were given almost no supplies. We were given no food, no masks, no gloves, no microwave, no bed sheets, no soap, no cleaning supplies. Nothing.

natasha singer

And while I was looking at students who were more concerned —

tiktok clip (college student 1)

N.Y.U., I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. Please feed me.

natasha singer

— I saw videos by this student at the University of Alabama.

tiktok clip (zoie terry)

Hey, y’all. This is day one of quarantine. I found out today that I have Covid and now my university has sent me to a small apartment by myself for 14 days.

natasha singer

And her name is Zoie Terry. And she was just documenting her experience being isolated in this dorm by herself.

tiktok clip (zoie terry)

OK. I’m not going to lie. This apartment is kind of scary. But we’re just going to go with it. They also gave three waters. I’ll keep you all updated on how I’m doing.

natasha singer

And she was upbeat. And she has this huge smile. And she’s completely charming. But the conditions behind her were very bleak, it seemed. So I went to the University of Alabama directory and I looked up every student named Zoie.

megan twohey

Wow.

natasha singer

And then, you know, I found this Zoie. And I just sent her an email saying, you know, I’d like to know what it’s like. I want to know what your experience was like in that isolation dorm.

megan twohey

And who is Zoie?

natasha singer

Zoie is a sophomore at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

zoie terry

My name is Zoie Terry. I’m 19 years old. I am from Birmingham, Alabama.

natasha singer

And so last year, she joined a sorority. And she was living, you know, in a freshman dorm and looking forward to the fall. But right before spring break, the coronavirus began to spread.

zoie terry

And then once I went home, within the hour of being home, they emailed us and told us that we weren’t coming back.

natasha singer

And they never came back to school. Because the coronavirus shut down the campus.

archived recording (natasha singer)

And so how did you feel about that, when that happened?

zoie terry

I was very upset. Me and all my friends were kind of devastated. Because we were just getting into the hang of college life. But I kind of was more freaked out because I didn’t know, like, if I need to start getting my stuff ready at home to be living at home, or anything like that. Because my mom lived in a two-bedroom apartment with my twin brother and her.

natasha singer

And she stayed at home with her mom. And they, you know, kind of banded together to wait this out.

zoie terry

I convinced my mom to let me get a dog. And that was kind of all I did the entire quarantine. I just watched my dog grow up, basically.

megan twohey

And what’s the status of Zoie’s sophomore year? Is the university making plans to reopen?

natasha singer

So in June, Kay Ivey, who’s the governor of Alabama, announced this incredibly ambitious program to reopen the public colleges and universities in the entire state. And she puts up federal money, $30 million from, like, federal emergency coronavirus response funds to create this program to test every single student returning to college in Alabama for coronavirus before they get to school. And that could be, you know, 150,000 students.

megan twohey

And how are they going to do that? We keep reading about all the shortages in testing. How are you going to test over 150,000 students?

natasha singer

It’s actually a fascinating story because one of the University of Alabama schools — the University of Alabama at Birmingham — is a major academic medical center and has a major medical school. The governor asked the University of Alabama at Birmingham to take on this colossal testing of every returning college student. And so they ramped up their capacity to test. And they ramped up to be able to process 10 to 12,000 student coronavirus tests a day.

They also set up this kind of military level logistics, where they opened 13 coronavirus testing sites for students around the state. And students had to be tested up to two weeks before they returned to campus. And the University of Alabama president and others, as they were describing this, promised that they would be the safest campuses in America when these Alabama schools reopened.

megan twohey

And so during the summer, while all these students are getting tested, where is Alabama in terms of infections?

natasha singer

So by August, when the University of Alabama was gearing up to reopen, Alabama had the seventh highest per capita infection rate in the United States.

megan twohey

Wow.

natasha singer

And it was a calculated risk. But they felt their program was comprehensive and that they would be able to safely reopen.

megan twohey

And what about Zoie? Is she feeling like this is a risk?

zoie terry

I guess a couple weeks before school started, I was like, I felt more comfortable with the idea of going back to school, because everybody had to get tested before they even were allowed to return on campus.

natasha singer

So for Zoie to go back to school, she also had to get one of these tests that every other college student in Alabama was going to take.

zoie terry

And it came back negative. So I was allowed to come to school.

natasha singer

And she comes back to school early before classes start, because she is going to participate in sorority rush and help interview and identify the first-year students, the girls who are going to be part of the sorority and move into the house next year.

zoie terry

So coming back, it was super strange. And everything looked so different because just social distancing and everything like that.

natasha singer

You know, usually this is a really festive, social, in-person gathering. And now they have to do rush online. They have to interview prospective sorority members virtually. But they still are putting a huge amount of energy into this. And Zoie is staying up late. And then she’s waking up really, really early to help organize the rush and interview the prospective students.

zoie terry

And so when you have lack of sleep, you kind of start to feel a little sick. You know what I mean? But I was thinking, there was no way I could have had the virus. Because I was following every guideline. I was doing nothing. I was in my room 24/7. And so a day or two went by, and my body just felt so weak and so feverish. And I call my mom. And she’s, like, you need to go get tested, just to make sure.

natasha singer

And so she gets an appointment to be tested that day. And she goes down to student health services. And she has a coronavirus test.

zoie terry

And it told me that I was positive.

archived recording (natasha singer)

And then what did you do?

zoie terry

So I wasn’t really sure what to do. Because it was very new. So basically, I had to contact the University of Alabama Covid-19 hotline. And, like, there’s a button where it’s like, if you think you may have Covid, press this. If you’re calling for positive test results, press this. So then I pressed that and I was assigned a case manager.

And we just — she talked to me on the phone. I was having a little bit of a meltdown. I was, like, crying and hyperventilating. And she was like, are you OK? Like, I know this is so scary. But you are going to be OK, I promise you. We’re going to get through this. And I will tell you exactly what to do. And I was, like OK, like, thank you so much. And I was, like, trying to calm myself down on the other side of the line. But —

natasha singer

And she gets this email saying to her, you’re going to move to this place. And there’s going to be a lockbox with your key.

zoie terry

So I just packed all my clothes and stuff. I packed my TV. And, like, I packed my essential oil diffuser and, like, fun things like that. And try to make it as homey as possible, because I was going to be very homesick, I knew.

natasha singer

So she gets the key. And she goes there and she opens the door. And it’s kind of empty.

zoie terry

When I went there, there was nobody there. None of the lights were on in the buildings. And I was the only one quarantined in my apartment. I think they were just starting to quarantine people. So everything was very fresh and new to them. And —

natasha singer

There’s no toilet paper. And there’s no, you know, sanitizer. And there’s nobody to greet her, right? There’s nobody from the university. There’s no nurse. There’s nobody in a mask. There’s no security guard. There’s nobody to escort her in and tell her what’s going to happen and tell her who she can call. She’s basically alone to fend for herself.

archived recording (natasha singer)

And so how did that feel, going to this place by yourself?

zoie terry

Well, I have a lot of anxiety. So it was an experience, me first going there. And keep in mind, I also had corona. So I was very sick and very just — my emotions were very high. So I just remember I walked in, and I went straight to the furthest room, turned the lights on, shut the door. And I just sat there and started crying. I just cried for, like, five minutes. And then I pulled myself together. And I went and got my stuff from the car.

natasha singer

She calls her mom, who’s a former I.C.U. nurse. And she calls her sister who works in New York. And she basically FaceTimes with them. And that is the beginning of what gets her through it.

zoie terry

So basically, my sister took what we called the day shift. First thing I would do when I wake up is call her. So I would have her on FaceTime the entire day. And my mom took the night shifts. So my mom would be on FaceTime with me throughout the night. She likes to say she monitored my breathing just in case something happened in the middle of the night where I passed out or something like that. She wanted to have my attention 24/7, in case I was like unresponsive or something. So —

natasha singer

Basically you were live streaming 24/7, 12 hours a day with your sister and 12 with your mom?

zoie terry

Yeah. I would have panic attacks. And I would think that I was, like, I couldn’t breathe. But it was actually due to my anxiety and panic attacks. So I would, like, tell my mom what I was experiencing and what was happening with my health. And then she would let me know what to do from then on.

megan twohey

So how sick was Zoie?

natasha singer

She had a fever. She was exhausted. She had some breathing issues. Some of it was anxiety. But you know, it’s hard to know. And so that is one of the reasons her mother wanted to monitor her. They also had a recent family tragedy. Zoie’s father had a respiratory illness and he died last year. And so the fact the coronavirus was a respiratory illness, and that Zoie had it, also heightened the anxiety for the whole family and made her mom want to monitor her and act, you know, as the guardian. Because the university is not acting as a guardian of this sick student.

megan twohey

What’s happening on campus as Zoie is locked in quarantine?

natasha singer

So she really was one of the first students to go into this quarantine dorm. But as the days go by, coronavirus is spreading across campus. And so more cars are in the parking lot. A few students begin to move in. Right? And before she’s moved out, there is an outbreak on campus. Kids have been going to parties without their mask on. They’ve been gathering en masse in local bars in Tuscaloosa without masks on. And there is an explosion of virus cases.

megan twohey

We’ll be right back.

So Natasha, while Zoie’s been in quarantine, the virus has really been taking off across campus?

natasha singer

Yeah. And the story of how Zoie thinks she got coronavirus is indicative of how the outbreaks are spreading on campus.

zoie terry

The one night I had left my sorority house and had went and, like, interacted with friends, it was me and three other girls. And we had all ordered Chipotle to her house. And we all ate dinner together. And we watched a movie.

natasha singer

So she goes to call one of the friends who was at the dinner that night.

zoie terry

I was very nervous to call. I said, hey girl, what are you doing? And she was, like, she sounded really upset. And she goes, I’m currently getting tested for Covid.

And I was, like, really? That’s so funny you say that. And before I could even finish my sentence, she goes, so and so has it in my house. So if you got it from this person, then I am so sorry.

And I said, no, that’s totally fine. I was actually calling you to tell you that I have tested positive for Covid, and that you need to get tested. And she goes, no, yeah, I’m getting tested right now. So thank you for telling me.

natasha singer

So it turned out that all the girls who were at the dinner that evening ended up getting coronavirus. And this was before classes had even started. So you can imagine how the virus started to spread as students were returning to campus.

megan twohey

So this extensive plan that the state had for testing, what went wrong?

natasha singer

They tested tens of thousands of students before they came back to campus. But there was a really weak link in this testing protocol. And that was students had to be tested within two weeks of coming back to campus. But that means, like, you could test me two weeks before I go back to campus, and then I could go to a party and get Covid.

megan twohey

Right.

natasha singer

Or I might not know I have it, right, and you test me, and it takes four days to develop. And then I’m going to bring my Covid with me to campus. And so there was a huge effort to do this testing. But I interviewed an epidemiologist who said it was kind of useless to test kids even a week out. And Alabama did its best.

And I asked them why they used this two-week window. And they said, look, we are testing kids at scale. It was believed to be the largest student testing program in terms of higher ed anywhere in the country. And there was no way they could have processed all those 150,000 tests only two days before classes start. So they traded off getting everybody for, you know, in fact not doing it so close to the return.

megan twohey

So what is the situation on campus when Zoie gets out of quarantine?

natasha singer

So after 10 days, Zoie is finally free.

tiktok clip (zoie terry)

Guess what, you guys? I am done. I’m done. I’m done. I’m done.

natasha singer

She makes this jailbreak TikTok.

tiktok clip (zoie terry)

And you might be asking yourself, Zoie, what is the first thing you do when you’re free? And to that I say, I get Dunkin’ with Linda!

natasha singer

And then she goes home to visit her mom and her dog.

zoie terry

And my dog — [LAUGHS] — he didn’t really recognize it was me, though. It was kind of sad. Because I had the mask on — until I started speaking in my dog voice. Everybody has one.

archived recording (natasha singer)

Can you use your dog voice?

zoie terry

Oh, no. (IN DOG VOICE) I just talk like this to my Simon. He’s very cute. I just talk like this to him.

archived recording (natasha singer)

It sounds like your own language.

zoie terry

He knows, he knows — if I were to say, “Simon, come here” in my normal voice, he wouldn’t know that I was talking to him. But if I was, like, (IN DOG VOICE) “Simon, come here,” then he would know I was talking to him.

archived recording (natasha singer)

I love that.

natasha singer

By the time, Zoie gets back to campus, it’s a completely different place. There are even more restrictions in place to try to get a handle on this virus outbreak on campus. Students are essentially confined to their room except for essential activities. They can’t have any gatherings. They can’t hang out in their dorms. They can’t go to common spaces. The dining hall is closed except for takeout. And the bars in Tuscaloosa are closed for two weeks.

zoie terry

It’s very strange. Honestly, it’s not very fun. I could be doing a way cheaper option of doing, like, a community college online instead of paying my tuition that I’m paying right now.

natasha singer

And so she basically spends a lot of time in her room. The majority of her classes are now online except for one of them. And yet, she still wants to be there.

zoie terry

But also, I’m here for like the education and the resources they have for the major I’m in.

natasha singer

And it really matters to her.

zoie terry

My mom and my dad both went here. And so that’s why I mainly chose to come to school here, is because I am the last child out of 5 to go to college. And the only one to go to ‘Bama. So it was kind of a given for me to come here.

natasha singer

So you’re like the Roll Tide legacy?

zoie terry

Definitely. We are a big, big, big football fan family.

natasha singer

She’s carrying on this major family tradition that is both educational and intellectual and social. And she wants to stick it out. And they all hope the university can pull this off.

zoie terry

It’s just kind of upsetting. Because my freshman year wasn’t that great. Because I was just getting over the passing of my dad, and I was dealing with grief my entire freshman year. So I was kind of looking forward to my sophomore year thinking, oh, my gosh, it’s going to be so much fun. Like, I’m going to meet all these new people. And now that I’m here and everything’s happening with Covid, we can’t have the sophomore year that everybody else has been able to have in years past.

And I can’t even imagine how the freshmen feel. I feel so bad for them. Because they’re coming to college and, like, this isn’t what college is like. Like, during rush, I was telling people, I was like, I promise this isn’t what college is like. It’s so much more fun this. And it’s going to be OK. We’re going to get through this. We just have to get over this hump. And once everything’s better, hopefully we get a vaccine, and maybe one day things can go back to normal. But until then, we just gotta push through this time and hope for things to get better.

megan twohey

And what is your understanding of why states and schools like the University of Alabama pushed to do this in the first place?

natasha singer

I think that there are multiple factors that affect whether universities decided to reopen or not. And there are fascinating calculations that went on about what number or percent of students are going to get the virus, and what is an acceptable risk to take.

And we see that some universities, even large state universities, made the decision that they were not going to reopen for in-person instruction. They were not going to bring students back to campus. Some of them made that decision for the semester and some said, look, we’re going to spend the first six weeks online and we’ll see what happens.

And other universities made the calculation that it would be much better to reopen. It would be better for their financial interests and financial survival. It would be better for students who would have a much better experience. There’s nothing that beats in-person interaction. They were going to, you know, cause education loss and emotional kind of growth loss by not opening.

megan twohey

Can you explain the financial piece of that a little bit more, the financial calculation?

natasha singer

Right. Well, universities obviously need tuition money and residential hall kind of dorm occupancy money and dining hall money to keep going. And yes, state schools get state money. But they also need revenue. And so there’s a large financial calculation about, you know, are we going to not reopen and lose all that income? Or are we going to open and get some of that income? And are we going to open and get some of that income, knowing we’re going to close, but at least we’ll have reaped some of that? So there’s a big picture financial driver behind deciding to reopen or not.

And then there are financial decisions every step of the way. Like, OK, we’re going to reopen. Are we going to reopen at full dorm occupancy and get all that money that we need for residential life? Or are we going to take a hit and actually say only freshmen and seniors can come back? And that will allow us to have only one student per room. And that will really reduce the risk, we hope, of spread of virus. But we’re going to take a financial hit.

And so we see universities making different calculations. Some have decided we’re not going to test kids. We’re only going to test kids for the virus if they show symptoms or if they’ve been exposed.

We see other universities, like the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and they have decided they’re going to test every student twice a week. This is a major state university deciding the only way they can reopen safely is to test every student two times a week, week after week. Right? That is a financial calculation. They’re going to spend that money because they’re trying to buy down risk.

And then there’s the political calculation. If you are a Republican governor in a largely Republican state, where there is a debate over whether people should be required to wear masks or not, there might be other reasons why you decide that you should reopen. Because your constituents want you to reopen and your president wants you to reopen.

megan twohey

Right.

natasha singer

And we saw Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, say recently that it is much more risky now for universities that have reopened and have large outbreaks to send students home, where they might spread the virus, than to keep them there. And so we’re seeing universities that in a sense fostered virus outbreaks by reopening have to keep the virus outbreaks under control by keeping students on campus.

megan twohey

And Natasha, your reporting on what happened to Zoie and the University of Alabama first published a few days ago. What has happened since then?

natasha singer

On the same day the story came out, about eight hours later, the president of the University of Alabama sent out this message to students and faculty and staff and parents. And what he said was that they were implementing these important new changes.

natasha singer

Do you know that the university sent out an email after the story came out that they’re going to change quarantine and isolation?

zoie terry

I did not know that.

natasha singer

Well, I’m just going to read it to you. Because I got an email from the president of U Alabama today.

zoie terry

OK.

natasha singer

I’m going to read it to you.

OK. So: “Dear students, faculty, staff and parents, hoping your Labor Day weekend was safe and relaxing. I want to update you on Covid-19 steps we have implemented effective today. “For our students who test positive and prepare to move to campus isolation spaces, staffing and medical resources have been enhanced to ensure prompt communication and expanded services.”

zoie terry

That’s amazing. Wow, OK. That makes me so happy.

natasha singer

Congratulations, Zoie. You’ve made the University of Alabama quarantine better.

zoie terry

Thank you. Oh, my gosh. That’s so great. Oh, that makes me feel so much better. For people I know going into quarantine, and if I have to go into quarantine again, like later on this year? Oh, that makes me feel so much better.

Thank you so much. I’m super happy that I had a voice in all of this. Because at the beginning when I first went into quarantine, I just sat in that room and cried because I was like, nobody’s going to hear my story about this at all. Nobody is going to know about this. And now that I actually have a voice and people are going to hear about this, I’m super thankful.

[music]

megan twohey

In the latest reports from the University of Alabama, more than 2,500 students and nearly 1,200 faculty and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus over the past month. But in recent days, the school reports that the virus is slowing. And on Monday, they announced they were easing some of the rules around the lockdown on campus.

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today. On the Gulf Coast, states are bracing for Hurricane Sally to make landfall near Alabama. The storm is expected to hit today.

archived recording (kay ivey)

Those who live on the Gulf Coast are all too familiar with Mother Nature’s wrath. We still hope and pray that Sally will not bring that type of pain and heartache. But my fellow Alabamians, Hurricane Sally is not to be taken for granted.

megan twohey

With warnings of devastating floods and threats of tornadoes, Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama is urging residents along the coast to evacuate low lying areas. Officials expect as much as 30 inches of rainfall in some places and storm surges as high as six to nine feet. And on Tuesday, members of Breonna Taylor’s family and city officials from Louisville, Kentucky said they had settled the wrongful death lawsuit brought on her behalf.

archived recording (tamika palmer)

As significant as today is, it’s only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna. We must not lose focus on what the real job is. And with that being said, it is time to move forward with the criminal charges, because she deserves that and much more.

megan twohey

As part of the settlement, the city will pay Taylor’s family $12 million and promise sweeping police reform. But it acknowledged no wrongdoing. A criminal investigation into the three officers who conducted the raid that resulted in Taylor’s death is ongoing.

archived recording (tamika palmer)

Her beautiful spirit and personality is working through all of us on the ground. So please continue to say her name, Breonna Taylor.

archived recording (crowd)

Breonna Taylor!

megan twohey

That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Megan Twohey. Michael Barbaro will be back next week. See you tomorrow.

At the University of Dayton in Ohio, President Eric Spina said the school of 8,500 undergraduates launched an aggressive testing and tracing program after a meeting of students with too few masks caused a cluster of cases, followed by another outbreak in dense student housing on the campus periphery.

“We were caught off guard when cases started going from a few a day to 30 a day,” Mr. Spina said. A blitz of tests soon uncovered 100 cases a day, mostly asymptomatic. Only two students had to be hospitalized, and both have recovered.

“We are in a much better place than we were,” he said, noting that the university hopes to start in-person classes next week.

That level of testing, however, has been the exception. A group of faculty and students at the California Institute of Technology who in August analyzed reopening plans at some 500 universities around the country found that only 27 percent of schools planned to test undergraduates for the virus as they returned to campus, and only about 20 percent planned to do any regular screening.

An author of the study, Sina Booeshaghi, a Caltech graduate student, said that the extent of a campus’s testing program correlated strongly with the size of its endowment, indicating that cost was a factor. (Coronavirus tests can cost $100 or more per person.) Lior Pachter, a computational biologist at the university, said many schools had pushed responsibility for health and safety down to the individual student or faculty level.

At Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, officials said they had no plans to alter their existing protocol when dorms opened next week for 5,000 students, most of them freshmen. The school has recorded more than 1,174 cases since Aug. 17 — about half of those in the past week — even though classes started remotely and residence halls have been closed. The school plans to offer in-person classes starting Sept 21.

The school tests students who report symptoms and does some random testing. It also requires masks inside campus buildings and where social distancing isn’t possible outside. But those restrictions don’t apply off campus, where some 8,000 students live and most of the infections seem to have started.

Last weekend, campus police broke up a house party thrown by a coronavirus-positive student who claimed to be quarantining. Last month, the university quarantined all of its athletes after a group of them attended a local house party and 27 tested positive.

So far, the university has recorded no hospitalizations or deaths among students, a university spokeswoman said. Still, some in the community are nervous.

“Everyone goes to the same places in Oxford, and I don’t think the students are careful,” said Megan Bernstein, 45, who said she had grown up in the town and was there to visit her father.

Trenton Jordan, 21, a junior, agreed. “Probably 99.99 percent of the people, when they go to an off-campus party, aren’t wearing a mask,” he said. “Most college kids are not worried about the virus.”

In Springfield, Mo., David Hinson, executive vice president of Drury University, said he has wrestled with whether to send students home should infections there continue rising. They spiked after school started in August, and he expects they may spike again now, after Labor Day. Most of Drury’s 1,416 undergraduates live within three hours of campus, and so could have left the campus bubble to go home over the long weekend.

Drury currently has about 30 active cases, but its cumulative total — now about 85 cases — has steadily risen. About 875 students are living on campus this fall, in single rooms, down from 1,090 in a normal year. All classes are being held in person, but Mr. Hinson said that as far as he knows, no one has been infected in the classroom. The risk, he said, is greater in the dorms.

Lacking guidelines from the state, the university worked with the local health department and decided that it would look for outbreaks from class to class and put those classes online for two weeks, rather than shutting down the entire school. No classes have been shut down so far, he said.

“It’s not simply a hard number, like if you have 100 active cases,” Mr. Hinson said. “That is a very ham-fisted way of approaching it.”

At the University of Missouri in Columbia, some 165 miles to the north, a spokesman expressed confidence that the school would maintain its in-person classes through Thanksgiving, citing the university’s ample health care resources.

Though many public health experts say more extensive testing is better, Missouri has chosen a more minimal path, testing only those students who report symptoms or who have been exposed to an infected person and have received a referral from a physician.

“There is no one perfect testing strategy,” said Christian Basi, the school spokesman. In a video explaining the university’s testing philosophy, a professor in the school’s College of Veterinary Medicine explained that mass testing “uses a lot of resources,” and that “we’re better to focus on the individuals that really need tests.”

After cumulative cases shot up by 271 on Tuesday, however, the university required students to wear masks at all times on campus, except when they are alone outside.

California State University Chico, like the rest of the California State University system, had thought it wouldn’t have to weigh such fine-tuning. The school announced in May that it would hold more than 90 percent of its fall classes remotely and cut back dramatically on the number of students who would be living in its already limited campus housing.

But the school still allowed some 2,500 of its 17,000 students to take classes on campus, and housed about 750 students in dorms. By August, infections had begun to spike, many among students living off campus.

Since then, infections have continued to rise, driving increases in the surrounding community and county. The university’s president, Gayle Hutchinson, isn’t counting on things returning to normal any time soon.

“We gave it our best shot,” said Ms. Hutchinson in a news conference announcing her decision to move all but about 100 students off campus and end the remaining in-person classes. “Maybe everything will have to remain virtual until we have a vaccine.”

Reporting was contributed by Danielle Ivory, Mitch Smith, Natasha Singer, Kevin Williams, Kirk Semple, Alex Lemonides, Jacob LaGesse and Grace Gorenflo.