College Campuses Are COVID ‘Superspreaders’

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 13, 2021 (HealthDay News) – U.S. colleges could be COVID-19 super-diffusion sites, and the first two weeks of class are the most dangerous, researchers warn.

They studied 30 campuses nationwide with the highest number of reported coronavirus cases and found that more than half had peaks well above 1,000 cases per 100,000 people per week in the first two weeks of class.

On some campuses, 1 in 5 students had been infected with the virus by the end of the fall term. Four of the schools had more than 5,000 cases.

Across 17 of the campuses, computer modeling showed that college epidemics were also directly related to spikes in infection in the counties where the schools were located.

Fortunately, researchers have also found that strict management of outbreaks – like immediately switching from in-person to online learning – can reduce peaks in infection in about two weeks.

The study was published on January 13 in the journal Computational methods in biomechanics and biomedical engineering.

Compared to peak incidences of 70 to 150 per 100,000 people per week in the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of 1,000 cases per 100,000 people per week found in the study shows that colleges are at high risk high rates of infection, said senior author Hannah Lu, of the Energy Resources Engineering program at Stanford University.

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

“The number of students infected throughout the fall is more than double the national average since the start of the epidemic of 5.3%, with 17.3 million cases reported out of a population of 328.2 millions, ”she noted.

For example, the 12,607 students of the University of Notre Dame were tested before the start of classes and only nine tested positive. Within two weeks of the start of the trimester, the seven-day incidence was 3,083.

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Jothi Venkat

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