COVID-19 Cases Spread on Campus Due to Housing Settings and Social Gatherings, CDC Reports

Two new reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conclude that COVID-19 is spreading on college campuses due to congregate housing, the increase of social gatherings, and disregard for mask wearing.  

The CDC reports between August and September — just when college campuses reopened —COVID-19 cases increased by 55% nationally among young people aged 18-22 years. The greatest increases occurred in the Northeast (144%) and the Midwest (123%).

"The observed increases in Covid-19 cases among persons aged 18-22 years could be driven by many factors, including changes in behavior or risk profiles resulting from multiple social, economic, and public policy changes during this period,” the researchers write the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. “Because approximately 45% of persons aged 18-22 years attend colleges and universities and 55% of those attending identified as White persons, it is likely that some of this increase is linked to resumption of in-person attendance at some colleges and universities.”

The report cites that about 71% of 18-22-year-olds live with a parent and nearly half of the age group attend colleges and universities. About 33% live with a parent while enrolled. To prevent cases on campus and within broader communities, the CDC says “it’s critically important” for students, faculty, and staff to “remain vigilant” and take steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

A second study, led by a team at the North Carolina Department of Health and the University of North Carolina, showed the university experienced a rapid increase of COVID-19 cases within 2 weeks of opening the campus. Student gatherings and close living settings, likely contributed to the rapid spread of COVID-19.

"The rapid increase in cases within two weeks of opening campus suggests that robust measures are needed to reduce transmission at institutes of higher education, including efforts to increase consistent use of masks, reduce the density of on-campus housing, increase testing for SARS-CoV-2, and discourage student gatherings," the researchers wrote.

About the Author

Yvonne Marquez is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].