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College towns become new front in U.S. COVID-19 pandemic: NYT

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 12:24, September 08, 2020

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- About 100 college communities in the United States have seen a high rate of infection in recent weeks as students have returned for the fall semester, making the campuses and the surrounding community a new front of the country's COVID-19 pandemic, said an article published by The New York Times on Sunday.

According to a New York Times review of 203 counties where students comprise at least 10 percent of the population, about half have experienced their worst weeks of the pandemic since Aug. 1, with figures showing the number of new infections is peaking right now.

The University of Iowa, which faced a budget shortfall of at least 75 million U.S. dollars because of the pandemic, had taken precautions, and only about a quarter of classes would be delivered in person after thousands of students came back, said the article. "But each fresh face in town could also carry the virus, and more than 26,000 area residents were university employees."

Meanwhile, the university's decision to hold in-person classes drew criticism from some faculty. "We're scared for our health and yours," one group of instructors wrote in an open letter to students in July, according to the New York Times.

"The pandemic has hurt colleges' finances in multiple ways, adding pressure on many schools to bring students back to campus. It has caused enrollment declines as students have opted for gap years or chosen to stay closer to home, added substantial costs for safety measures, reduced revenue from student room and board and canceled money-generating athletic events," said the article.

However, epidemiologists have warned that, even with exceptional contact tracing, it would be difficult to completely contain the virus on a campus when students shop, eat and drink in town, and local residents work at the college, said the newspaper.

As the global COVID-19 caseload surpassed 27 million on Sunday, the United States still ranks the first in the tally with a total number of over 6.27 million infections and a death toll over 188,940.

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