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Tracking Coronavirus Cases in U.S. Colleges and Universities



up31%

Since the end of 2020

Coronavirus cases continued to appear in the tens of thousands this year in colleges, according to a New York Times investigation, after students returned to campuses at a time when the number of cases was skyrocketing in large part from the country.

More than 120,000 cases have been linked to US colleges and universities since January 1, and more than 530,000 cases have been reported since the start of the pandemic. The Times also identified more than 100 deaths involving students and employees. The vast majority occurred in 2020 and involved employees.






Growth rate of on-campus cases since the end of 2020

Each bar represents a school

Campus case growth rate

Since the end of 2020

Each bar represents a school


Small schools

Undergraduate enrollment less than 5,000

Middle schools

5,000 to 15,000

Large schools

Over 15,000


Note: The growth rate is only shown for schools that recorded at least 50 cases in 2020.

Almost a year after most universities abruptly switched online courses and sent students home, the virus continues to disrupt U.S. higher education. When many campuses reopened in the fall, epidemics swept through dormitories and infected thousands of students and staff.

Since the return of students for the spring semester, increased testing, social distancing rules and improved national outlook have helped curb the spread on some campuses. In the state of Ohio, where the test positivity rate once peaked at around 5%, university officials reported a positivity rate of just 0.5% out of 30,000 tests on the campus in a recent week.

Yet major epidemics continue. The Times investigated more than 1,900 colleges and universities for information on coronaviruses and found that at least 17 colleges had already reported more than 1,000 cases in 2021. At the University of Michigan, a highly infectious variant appeared on campus. At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where more cases were identified in 2021 than in the fall semester, in-person classes are resuming after a difficult start to the year.

Despite the pushes at some colleges, there are positive signs. In counties with large student populations, coronavirus cases have declined, reflecting a national downward trend in cases.

Case rate in college communities

Coronavirus cases in counties where students make up at least 10% of the population compared to other counties.

University counties

Other counties

0

20

40

60

80 cases
per 100,000 inhabitants

April 2020

July

Oct.

January 2021

Fall semester
(Sept. – Dec.)

Note: Case numbers are aggregated using a seven-day moving average. | Sources: Counties are categorized using data from the 2018 American Community Survey. Case data is from a New York Times database as of February 24.

With no national tracking system and statewide data available only sporadically, colleges have established their own rules for how to count infections. While the Times survey is considered the most comprehensive account available, it is also an undercoverage.

Many universities, hoping to quickly identify cases and prevent larger outbreaks, have aggressively tested for the virus, in some cases detecting cases that might otherwise have been missed.

Of the colleges the Times contacted, most posted case information online or responded to requests for case numbers. The Times obtained data on cases through requests for open cases at several public universities that otherwise would not provide numbers. Most colleges do not publicly report coronavirus-related deaths.

Find a school

The table includes over 1,900 colleges and lists case totals, where applicable. A few schools report only positive test results, which can include multiple tests for a person. Others were not clear whether they had positive test results or unique cases.

14 650

case to

30

schools

14,848

case to

9

schools

9 164

case to

29

schools

17 377

case to

81

schools

10,895

case to

29

schools

5,585

case to

20

schools

28 631

case to

127

schools

19 875

case to

39

schools

19,015

case to

50

schools

21,802

case to

35

schools

9 971

case to

27

schools

6,468

case to

25

schools

13,133

case to

54

schools

9,500

case to

41

schools

4,949

case to

21

schools

10,476

case to

59

schools

19,498

case to

52

schools

11,297

case to

60

schools

5,609

case to

15

schools

14 781

case to

37

schools

2 923

case to

16

schools

7 155

case to

14

schools

2 328

case to

20

schools

5 753

case to

28

schools

1 311

case to

12

schools

21 919

case to

210

schools

20,759

case to

51

schools

4,849

case to

13

schools

24,904

case to

62

schools

7,147

case to

21

schools

3 189

case to

18

schools

23,604

case to

114

schools

17 638

case to

29

schools

14 840

case to

67

schools

42 237

case to

85

schools

15,902

case to

ten

schools

14,429

case to

41

schools

5,243

case to

45

schools

3426

case to

19

schools

18,249

case to

32

schools

* The total is known to include one or more cases from a medical school, medical center, teaching hospital, clinical setting, or other university health science program. † The College only reports positive tests and may double count cases. ‡ The College did not clarify whether the data includes duplicate cases. Schools with no case totals (indicated by -) did not respond to inquiries, declined to provide information, or did not separate cases from 2020 and 2021. Schools reporting no cases or no totals cases only appear during search.

Note: The growth rate is only shown for schools that recorded at least 50 cases in 2020. The charts show seven-day moving averages of daily new cases over the past 14 days in the county. Unless otherwise specified, the location of a university’s main campus is shown. In several cases, colleges noted that some cases were linked to secondary campuses or satellite locations.

Given the disparities in size, plans to reopen, and transparency between universities, this data should not be used to make campus-to-campus comparisons. Some colleges subtract cases from their counts once people recover. Some only report tests done on campus. Some did not separate the 2020 case data from the 2021 case data. And some initially provided data but stopped. The calculation of growth rates for 2021 is in some cases skewed by incomplete data provided by colleges.

Infections associated with medical schools and teaching hospitals

University of Alabama at Birmingham

2 856

1,406

262

Birmingham, Ala.

University of California, San Diego

1,473

454

San Diego

University of Connecticut

1,144

90

Storrs, Conn.

University of South Florida

1211

85

Tampa, Florida.

Washington University

1,287

196

Seattle

University of California, San Francisco

454

305

163

San Francisco

University of Colorado Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus

110

81

Aurora, Colorado.

The Times counts reported cases among students and university employees in all fields, including those whose roles as doctors, nurses, pharmacists or medical students put them at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Some universities have a wide range of programs, including medical units, and have reported dozens of healthcare-related cases. These cases are listed above as a subset of their university-wide totals.

Some universities did not provide data on cases in their medical schools, hospitals or clinics. Some included these cases in their campus-wide counts, but did not specify how many there were. Other universities that focus primarily on medical education, or that have reported a small number of cases related to clinical programs, are listed in the main table on this page with an asterisk.

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