Colleges in all 50 states report COVID-19 cases as clusters linked to social gatherings grow

Virus Outbreak Washington
Posted at 10:43 AM, Sep 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-10 13:23:22-04

As schools begin their fall semester, universities and colleges are struggling to contain coronavirus outbreaks with cases reported at campuses in all 50 states.

More than 40,000 COVID-19 infections have been reported among students, faculty and staff at colleges and universities nationwide. The number represents cases that CNN has reported so far -- with the actual tally likely higher due to a lag from schools that update their data every few days.

With social life trickling back to life on campuses, coronavirus outbreaks have hit places students congregate, such as fraternities and sororities, where some have continued to gather despite remote learning.

A cluster of COVID-19 cases was linked to a fraternity party at the University of New Hampshire. More than 100 people attended the August 29 party and few wore masks. Eleven people connected to the party have tested positive for the virus, university officials said.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is directing all undergraduate students to restrict their movements for the next two weeks in an attempt to reverse the rise in COVID-19 cases.

In a memo to students, faculty and staff this week, Chancellor Rebecca Blank called on students to severely limit in-person interactions and stay in their residences except for essential activities. The university directed nine campus fraternities and sororities with off-campus live-in houses to quarantine for at least 14 days.

Illinois' Bradley University on Tuesday told all of its more than 4,500 students to quarantine in their on-campus or off-campus residences for two weeks, and to attend only online classes during that time, with allowances for meal pickups and other errands.

Though the school had less than 50 positive cases on campus, those cases led to 500 people being put in quarantine, so the school said it decided to have everybody reset.

And at Indiana University Bloomington, county health officials ordered 30 sorority and fraternity houses to quarantine last week following what campus officials have described as an "alarming increase" of positive COVID-19 tests within the houses.

The school directed Greek houses to suspend all in-person activities until at least Monday.

Some of the highest number of cases are at Miami University, University of South Carolina, Ohio State University and East Carolina University, all of which have over 1,000 confirmed cases. The University of Missouri has 862 confirmed cases while Missouri State University at 791, a CNN tally shows.

While most students will likely recover, health experts have expressed concern that young people would spread the virus to the more vulnerable in their communities. Experts also have warned that the county as a whole could see a resurgence of coronavirus cases this fall on top of flu season.

As cases rise on campuses, rates of new daily infections reported nationwide have been dropping after a summer surge.

The seven-day average of new daily reported infections in the US was about 35,300 as of Wednesday, down from a peak average of 67,317 on July 22, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The country's COVID-19 death rate also has dipped. The seven-day average of new daily deaths was 734 Wednesday after it was above 1,000 from late July to August 20, JUH data show.

Giroir says he's 'never been told to slow down testing'

The coronavirus testing lead for the White House coronavirus task force said Thursday that he has never been told to slow testing, and the country is continuing to increase its testing capacity.

"I have never been told to slow down testing, or to reduce our efforts -- and in fact, we built on testing every single month," Adm. Brett Giroir, a physician and the assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta during a Research! America forum.

His comments come a day after experts said the US should be performing as many as 200 million COVID-19 tests every month to have any chance of controlling the pandemic. That report, from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, said fewer than 30 million tests are currently reported monthly in the country.

Giroir said Thursday that "this month, we should have the availability of over 100 million tests, and between 55% and 60% of those -- that's 55 to 60 million -- will be rapid point of care."

"This really puts us at an inflection point that we can really protect the elderly, we could protect the vulnerable, and we can do those kinds of screening testing for schools and work that we've been talking about for months now we have the tools to do that," Giroir told Gupta.

Another study finds US greatly undercounted infections

Nationwide, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has been greatly undercounted, mostly due to a lack of testing, a new study shows.

The case tally in the US does not "capture the total burden of the pandemic" because testing has been restricted to those with moderate to severe symptoms due to limited availability, according to researchers at the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health.

The report, published in the journal Nature Communications, finds the US may have experienced over 6.4 million infections of COVID-19 by April 18. At the time, there were 721,245 confirmed infections, the researchers said.

As of Thursday, the nation's total official infection count was more than 6.3 million, with more than 190,000 recorded US deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

"We know that in the US, earlier on in the epidemic, the people who were getting tested had moderate to severe symptoms," said Jade Benjamin-Chung, one of the study's co-authors and a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Berkeley Public Health. "And we know that since then, we have a larger number of asymptomatic people who are affecting the total number of infections but may not be included in confirmed case counts."

The findings support previous statements by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicate the country's actual number of infections is far greater than recorded. In June, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said testing likely missed 90% or so of cases.

Previous studies have similarly suggested infection undercounts in the US.

Doctor expresses fury about 'misinformation'

A frontline doctor is among those expressing fury over revelations that President Donald Trump downplayed the deadly threat from coronavirus early in the pandemic.

In a series of interviews, Trump told investigative reporter Bob Woodward that he downplayed the danger because he didn't want people to panic.

Dr. Craig Spencer, the director of Global Health in ER Medicine at NY-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, expressed his anger at the disclosure.

"I'm furious because you want to talk about panic and wanting to reduce panic -- I think of the panic of every single family I called on FaceTime to let them know their family member was dying or had died," Spencer told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Wednesday. "And I think about that multiplied by 190,000 times around this country."

It's "almost impossible" for health professionals to keep up with and correct the President's misinformation, he said.

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