As colleges start the fall semester, COVID-19 is a growing concern.
Since the pandemic began, one analysis found more than 51,000 coronavirus cases reported at over 1,500 US colleges and universities. In recent weeks, some colleges have seen a spike as US campuses welcome students back into the dorms and classrooms. And it's raising concerns because some college towns have already become new coronavirus hot spots. Now, schools are grappling with how to contain the virus's spread. Here's how it's going so far:
Schools seeing surges...While the rate of infection has gone down in areas like the Northeast, it remains high across some states in the Midwest and South. Now, universities like Texas A&M, East Carolina, and Illinois State are reporting hundreds of new cases despite imposing safety guidelines like masks and social distancing.
Schools hitting 'reverse'...Several schools that started in-person classes quickly said 'actually, see you online.' Just last week, Iowa State University canceled plans to welcome 25,000 football fans for this weekend's opener after community backlash. Universities in Wisconsin and Indiana ordered quarantines at fraternity and sorority houses after members tested positive, prompting some calls for them to shut down or move elsewhere. But that's raising some other concerns.
Schools like James Madison University, North Carolina State University, and Colorado College sent students back home after outbreaks. That has public health experts raising flags, saying it could further the virus's spread in their hometowns. Meanwhile, other schools like Emerson College and the University of South Carolina are isolating students who've tested positive for COVID-19 in hotel rooms or quarantine-designated dorm rooms. Others are trying a shaming tactic – urging students to avoid parties (which aren't exactly known for social distancing) so they won't be responsible for getting everyone else sent home. Some universities have gone as far as suspending dozens of students for breaking the rules – and they're not getting their tuition back.
There are lots of reasons colleges and universities want campuses open – to give students the benefits of in-person learning and to provide badly needed income for the schools and their communities as they deal with the pandemic. But as some schools move forward with regular(ish) classes and dorm life, many worry it could lead to outbreaks that spread beyond the schools' grounds.
Belarus. Today, a leading opposition activist against the country's president was reportedly arrested after trying to cross into neighboring Ukraine. The news came one day after witnesses told local media that unidentified, masked men pulled Maria Kolesnikova off the streets of Minsk, forced her into a minivan, and drove away. Kolesnikova has been a vocal critic of President Alexander Lukashenko, who's been called "Europe's last dictator," and whose victory in the recent election has protesters claiming the results were rigged. Two other opposition activists were also reported missing yesterday but are believed to be in Ukraine. Lukashenko's main challenger – who fled to Lithuania after an apparent threat to her family – said members of the opposition have been "chased, kidnapped, and harassed" in the past.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Yesterday, a Washington Post report said the House Oversight Committee will investigate the Postmaster General for allegedly violating federal election laws and lying to Congress under oath. DeJoy's accused of pressuring his former employees to make campaign donations to his preferred GOP candidates...and paying them back. Recently, he's also been scrutinized for his overhaul of the USPS in the middle of a pandemic – which had many worried about mail-in voting for November. Now, the committee's investigating DeJoy and has called for him to be suspended faster than priority mail.
Jacob Blake. Over the weekend, the 29-year-old Black man who was shot by police seven times in the back last month spoke out from his hospital bed. Paralyzed from the waist down, Blake said he's in constant pain and that "it hurts to breathe, it hurts to sleep." And warned people not to take their life for granted, since it can all "be taken from you like this." His lawyer reportedly said that Blake still hasn't realized "what a symbol he has become," and that he'll be focusing on his family – including his kids, three of whom witnessed the shooting.
California. On Sunday, the temperature in Los Angeles County reached 121 degrees – the hottest it's ever gotten there. And earlier this week, fire officials said a "smoke-generating" device used at a gender reveal party caused a fire that is still burning in San Bernardino County (yes, this happened again). Yesterday, the state's largest utility shut off power to tens of thousands of customers in an effort to reduce wildfire risk. So far this year, wildfires in California have already killed eight people, destroyed over 3,300 buildings, and burned over 2 million acres.
Skimm’d by Maria del Carmen Corpus, Mariza Smajlaj, Ellen Burke, Niven McCall-Mazza, and Clem Robineau
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