CDC: Counties where colleges had in-person instruction had 56% increase in COVID cases

Counties where college students at large universities resumed classes in-person saw a 56% increase in COVID-19 cases.

What seems obvious to many was proven through a CDC study last fall, which was released earlier this year.

According to the report, cases of COVID-19 were decreasing nationwide last August. But cases were increasing among adults 18-22 years old.

The study compared cases in counties where colleges resumed classes online versus those that had students learning in person.

“Among counties with large colleges and universities (university counties) included in the analysis, remote-instruction university counties (22) experienced a 17.9% decline in mean COVID-19 incidence during the 21 days before through 21 days after the start of classes (from 17.9 to 14.7 cases per 100,000), and in-person instruction university counties (79) experienced a 56.2% increase in COVID-19 incidence, from 15.3 to 23.9 cases per 100,000. Counties without large colleges and universities (non-university counties) (3,009) experienced a 5.9% decline in COVID-19 incidence, from 15.3 to 14.4 cases per 100,000,” the study found.

The study considered large colleges and universities as those with more than 20,000 full-time and part-time students.

Washington State University has an enrollment of just under 30,000 total students.

Whitman County saw spikes in cases when students returned to campus, even though most instruction was done online.

The study notes that congregate living settings were linked to transmissions, but that mitigation efforts like frequent testing throughout the semester could help rapidly identify and isolate new cases.

Researchers say increasing testing capacity is key, along with more people wearing masks and social distancing.

“Some university counties might have one or more concerning factors, such as higher levels of older adult populations, high rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease, or strained health care resources. These counties might need to consider the implications of in-person instruction on spread of COVID-19 among a student population that might have interactions with persons at higher risk in the community.”

You can read the full report here.