Research Reveals Alarming Rates of COVID-19 Transmission in Colleges

A recent study on the possible venues of the spread of the pandemic in the United States was conducted to address possible outcomes in the event of all college campuses resuming regular classes.

Published in Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering, the research portrays American colleges as possible COVID-19 ‘superspreader’ sites and suggests that the first two weeks of regular class hours can be very dangerous.


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The research model covered about 30 campuses in America that had reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases. It concluded that the majority of these campuses had individually reported more than 1,000 cases out of 100,000 people per week within the first two weeks of classes.

Some campuses had even reported that one in five students had contracted the virus by the end of the fall term, and four such schools had reported more than 5,000 cases.

In another finding, a campus-specific research model determined that 17 such campuses had directly contributed to the infection peaks in their counties.

The research model also observed that the timely adjustment of preventative measures had helped to lower infection peaks within a fortnight. Perhaps the biggest indicator of these measures had been an immediate switch from in-person learning to online learning.

The report determines that during the first week of on-campus classes, the outbreak was recorded between 70 to 150 infections per 100,000 people a week. The same rate jumped to 1,000 infections per 100,000 people a week in the second week.

This proves that colleges and universities are at greater risk for cataclysmic rates of COVID-19 infection.


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Hannah Lu, the lead author of this study at Stanford University’s Energy Resources Engineering Program, confirmed the theoretical basis of her research.

She stated in a journal publication that “Policymakers often use an incidence of 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per week as a threshold for high-risk counties, states, or countries. All 30 institutions in our study exceeded this value, three even by two orders of that magnitude.”

Discussing statistics, Lu added that “the number of students who had become infected just throughout the fall is more than twice the national average since the beginning of the outbreak of 5.3 percent, with 17.3 million reported cases at a population of 328.2 million”.

Examples of this can be taken from various research reports that mirror the findings of this study. For instance, when regular classes at the University of Notre Dame were resumed, all of its 12,607 students were tested for the virus, of which nine reports came back positive. Following this, more than 3,000 cases were reported less than two weeks into the term.

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