The northeast has the largest jump in virus cases among young people aged 18 to 22, with a 144% increase. Cases in the Midwest among this age group also increased dramatically, with an increase of 123 percent.
Also Tuesday, North Carolina State University mourned the death of a student from complications following a diagnosis of covid-19.
As the country’s colleges resume classes this fall, the incidence of viruses is being closely monitored to see if universities are increasing the spread of the new coronavirus ̵
About 45 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds are enrolled in college, according to the CDC. Colleges have developed a wide range of plans, including efforts to drastically reduce communal housing, speed up tests, and persuade students to stay away from others. In some schools, the number of cases was in the thousands, while others reported only a handful.
The CDC is also researching the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which has seen a dramatic jump in cases at the beginning of the semester. Municipal housing and student gatherings both on and off campus are likely to have contributed to the groups of cases, the agency concluded in a separate report released on Tuesday.
The rapid spread of the disease in schools “underscores the urgent need to implement comprehensive mitigation strategies,” the report said.
The CDC did not name the university, but school officials confirmed on Wednesday that it was UNC-Chapel Hill.
Universities should take enhanced precautions to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, the agency recommends, including reducing the number of people living in dormitories, ensuring compliance with public health guidelines, increasing virus testing and discouraging students from gather in groups.
Preventing the spread of coronavirus in universities “represents a unique set of challenges due to the existence of common living conditions and difficulties in limiting socialization and group gatherings,” the report said.
Before August, there was very little evidence of coronavirus in universities, as most schools were closed abruptly last March, sending students to complete spring classes online. In August, some universities opened dormitories and classrooms to some extent, giving a glimpse of what might happen.
At UNC-Chapel Hill, the start of the school year in August looked very different from normal, with students in masks, much of the instruction online, and far fewer students in dormitories. Still, 5,800 students lived on campus, and many more lived in and around Chapel Hill.
And just a week after classes began, a jump in cases among students in three dormitories and a fraternity home, school officials announced a reversal and implementation of a fully virtual instruction.
“As one of the first universities to open up and face challenges, we wanted to share the information we gained from our experience with COVID-19 with other universities from which to learn,” said Audrey E. Pettifor, an epidemiologist at the School of Global Public Affairs. Gillings Health at UNC-Chapel Hill and one of the authors of the CDC report, said in a written statement Wednesday. “It is clear that this pattern of universities that detect and then observe infections is observed throughout the country.”
“Working closely with the university health facility, UNC faculty, UNC hospitals, Orange County Health Department, the North Carolina State Health Department and the CDC is an important part of training in situations like this,” the statement said. “As a result, we are building stronger systems to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and future pandemics.”
A spokesman for North Carolina State University, who made such a sharp turning point after the UNC amid a growing number of coronavirus cases on campus, did not immediately respond to a response to a request for comment.
On Tuesday, the chancellor of Appalachian State University in western North Carolina announced that student Chad Doril had died after suffering from complications of covid-19. His family told the university that he was diagnosed with coronavirus this month while attending classes online and living off-campus near a school, returning home to recover but suffering complications after returning to Boone, NC. where the school is located.
“His family wants the university to share a common call to action,” Sherry Everts, Chancellor of the Appalachian State, said in a statement, “so our entire campus community recognizes the importance of adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols and guidelines.”
The president of the University of North Carolina’s system, Peter Hans, reiterated Everts’ call to remain vigilant about safety behavior. “Every loss of life is a tragedy,” Hans said in a statement, “but grief cuts especially deep as we grieve for a young man who has had so much life ahead.”
Everts said many had told the student’s family that “I’m wearing a mask for Chad.” “Please let us all honor Chad and his contribution,” Everts writes, “by taking care of ourselves and our community.”