College Towns Alarmed as COVID-19 Cases Surge Among Students
As more and more schools are reopening, college towns in Missouri, Utah, and Alabama are seeing a spike in infections. Students in some towns are flouting restrictions and partying in large numbers, leading to authorities shutting bars and mandating masks to prevent the spread of the virus.
For example, with more than 300 students at the University of Missouri testing positive, the local health director has ordered bars to stop serving alcohol at 9 pm and close by 10 pm.
Stephanie Browning, head of the health department for Columbia, Missouri said during a press conference, “What we’re seeing in our violations is they’re coming late at night.” She added, “Big groups gathering. They’re not wearing their masks, they’re not social distancing.”
We encourage everyone to wear a mask & practice social distancing but we’re putting out extra reminders to students that just moved to town. You’ll see these signs in east campus, downtown & others with student housing. We want everyone to be safe &healthy. #CoMoUnity #MaskUpCoMo pic.twitter.com/wpAbiuBnAx
— City of Columbia, MO (@CoMoGov) August 26, 2020
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 students at the University of Alabama (UA) Tuscaloosa campus have tested positive since in-person classes resumed, according to the school’s latest update. When compared to other colleges or universities, UA now has the largest coronavirus cluster since the start of the fall semester.
This has prompted the city of Tuscaloosa to close bars for two weeks and suspend bar service at restaurants in response to the surge.
Dr. Ricky Friend, dean of the College of Community Health Sciences at UA, said in a press release on Friday, “Our exposure notification efforts have revealed no evidence of virus transmission due to in-person class instruction.”
Keeping COVID-19 in Check at College
A viral video posted early in August shows a large gathering of students of the University of North Georgia partying on a Saturday night with only a few wearing face masks.
— Karyn Greer (@karyngreer) August 16, 2020
The video garnered heavy backlash. President Jere W. Morehead took to Twitter requesting students to “avoid large gatherings and maintain appropriate social distancing.” Further, 300 faculty members at the university signed a petition arguing against in-person instruction in the upcoming semester.
While several colleges and universities have opted for online classes for the fall semester, some choose to reopen premises or allow students to stay within premises. In all this, colleges are relying heavily on students to stick to COVID-19 guidelines.
In fact, responding to a video showing Penn State University students gathered in large numbers outside of East Halls, President Eric Barron suggested a shift to online classes to prevent a surge in cases.
Barron said such behavior is unacceptable. “I ask students flaunting the University’s health and safety expectations a simple question,” he wrote in a press release. “Do you want to be the person responsible for sending everyone home?”