[Vision2020] The Surge of Covid on Campus
ngier006 at gmail.com
Sat Sep 26 13:31:09 PDT 2020
Chuck P. (Sept. 12) spoke too soon about no hospitalization and no deaths.
There has been a rapid rise of cases in Latah County from 25 on July 2 to
410 on Sept. 25. (UI and Christ Church, I suspect.) Six hospitalizations on
the Palouse and now one Covid death.
Below is the long version of my DNews column, which will be published in
Pocatello's Idaho State Journal on Sunday.
*An Explosion of COVID-19 on Our Campuses: 3,200 New Cases Every Day from
July to September*
by Nick Gier
*The original sin was inviting the students back to campus *—Michael
Innis-Jimenez, University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa (2,690 cases)
*What we didn’t model for is that people would choose to go to a party if
they knew that they were positive. *—Martin Burke, University of Illinois
By one set of measures, the U.S. ranks 131st in the world in controlling
the coronavirus. Researchers at www.endcoronavirus.org rank countries in
three categories: those that have “beat the virus” (30, including New
Zealand, Taiwan, and Thailand); those that are “nearly there” (18, China,
Australia, and South Korea); and those that “need action,” where the U.S.,
Brazil, Sweden, and Israel join 81 other nations.
When Israel opened its schools in late May, they experienced a huge virus
outbreak, which, as one news source reported, “forced hundreds of schools
to close, and tens of thousands of students and teachers were quarantined.”
Responding to 4,000 daily new coronavirus infections (the most per capita
in the world), Israel is now facing a second 14-day lockdown.
*U.S. Virus Cases up 22%; Deaths up 5%*
“Out of control” most aptly describes government mismanagement in the U.S.,
Brazil, and India. A Trump inspired premature opening of American
businesses and schools, primarily in the South, led to record number of
cases and deaths in July. Memorial Day celebrations may have been a primary
Trump’s fatuous claim that “we have turned the corner,” belies a Labor Day
spike and the opening of schools, colleges, and universities. Virus cases
are up 22 percent two weeks after a holiday and deaths increased 5 percent
as of September 24.
*Many Campus Residences in Quarantine*
According to a recent analysis, Wisconsin is the only blue state among 11
blue states that have the most cases per capita, and that is most likely
because the University of Wisconsin-Madison has 2,775 cases and has
suspended in-person instruction. Two dorms are now in quarantine, and the
county commissioners are considering sending all dorm residents home.
Other authorities, including the White House’s Debra Birx, are warning that
sending students home without testing them will only further spread the
virus. At the University of Illinois, the administration has locked down
its dormitories and allow students out only for classes and medical
Faced with a tripling of cases, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville has
run out of quarantine space and has told some uninfected students to move
out of their dorms. At the University of Arizona, all students on campus
and within a specified perimeter are being told to shelter in place for 14
*“Beyond our Wildest Nightmares”*
Other universities that have mandated a two-week quarantine include
University of Colorado, North Carolina State, Michigan State, and Notre
Dame. Gavin Yamey, a Duke professor of Global Health, exclaims: “It has
been beyond our wildest nightmares. It has been a debacle and a national
catastrophe. It was a self-inflicted national wound.” Duke has the lowest
infection rate on the nation’s campuses, but Yamey still recommends that
all students be tested before they go home for Thanksgiving break.
*College Towns: 3,200 Extra Cases per day*
An incomplete survey of 1,300 campuses done by the *New York Times* has
identified more than 130,000 cases with 70 deaths. Researchers from three
institutions have done a more comprehensive study using cell phone and GPS
data. They estimate that 3,200 extra cases per day appeared in college
towns from mid-July to mid-September. This was the same method that
produced the 267,000 death estimate for new cases stemming from the Sturgis
motorcycle rally in South Dakota.
About 40 percent of college and university campuses were set to open for
in-person classes, but only 25 percent have met that goal and the rest have
gone to on-line teaching. Nine of 15 major public universities have
switched to virtual instruction. Tim White, former UI president and now
Chancellor of the 23-campus California State University (the largest in the
nation), has moved his 484,300 students on-line.
*“Close Fraternity Houses. Period”*
Pittsburgh Regional Health released a survey of public health experts on
how colleges should respond to virus outbreaks. One of the report’s
conclusions was: “Close fraternity houses. Period.”
Officials at Indiana University-Bloomington requested that all Greek houses
close for the semester, but negotiations led to suspending 40 and locking
down the rest. After a party at the Acacia Fraternity house, 88 percent of
its members tested positive. Purdue University has quarantined 23
fraternities, sororities and other student housing, and Boise State
University has suspended three fraternities and 18 students for violating
*Some Administrators are the Problem*
The administration at the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa warned faculty
not to discuss the pandemic or have students report positive cases to
of Missouri president Mun Choi had blocked his Twitter account after
receiving complaints about his COVID policies, but the backlash was so
great that he unblocked it. A journalist was not able to identify whom
bystanders said was a college president lining up unmasked for selfies at a
*Lock Down** UI’s Lambda Chi Alpha!*
On September 9, I reported a large unmasked gathering at UI’s Lambda Chi
Alpha. I did not receive return calls from the Dean of Students nor from
city or campus police. Also, President Scott Green did not get back to me
after an initial promise to investigate.
*Athletes, COVID-19, and Myocarditis*
The UI said that it would update its athletic case numbers by August 31,
but it has yet to do so. (During the month of July, 9 had tested positive
and two staff as well.) ESPN surveyed 65 athletic powerhouses and one-third
did not provide coronavirus protocols nor did they release case numbers.
This information is imperative because 15 percent of college athletes have
been diagnosed with myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart
muscle that can be fatal.
In August Jamain Stephens, a promising football recruit at Pennsylvania’s
California University, came down with the virus and then suddenly died of a
blood clot. Neither Stephens nor his team members were tested for the
virus, no temperatures were taken, and there was no contact tracing.
Ed Orgeron, Louisiana State’s football coach, reported that “most of his
players had contracted the virus.” After 27 tested positive, every athlete
at Miami University in Ohio will have to isolate for two weeks. All
athletic activity at the University of Maryland-College Park was halted
after positive results rose sharply.
*At Least 98 Post-COVID Illnesses*
A local columnist in Moscow-Pullman tried to reassure his readers that, as
there have been no local hospitalizations or deaths, we should not be
worried. Since he wrote, there have been six virus admissions at local
hospitals and one death.
According to the CDC, hospitalization rates have risen to 100 per 100,000
among ages 0-29, with an alarming 17 per 100,000 for children 0-4 years
old, and 74 per 100,000 for age group 18-29.
*COVID-19’s “Long Tail”*
Dr. Natalie Lambert has conducted a COVID-19 “Long Hauler” survey, and she
has found 98 long-lasting conditions due to the virus, many in young
people. They people are experiencing cognitive dysfunction or memory loss;
some have lung pain, hypoxia, or profound fatigue; others have had strokes,
blood clots, numbness, hearing loss, increased heart rate, or cardiac
Over 500,000 children have now tested positive for the virus, and doctors
say that some of them may suffer from post-COVID illnesses for the rest of
their lives. They will of course need treatment much longer than older
One doctor warned that “if someone in their teens and 20s suffers a stroke
or embolism, it could impact their long-term life choices in profound
ways.” CNN anchor and virus survivor Richard Quest has warned that “COVID
is a tornado with a very long tail.”
*Virus Increases at UI and WSU*
The first round of testing at the UI found 34 cases, but after a Labor Day
spike, the total is now 126—41 percent of the cases in Latah County on
September 21. WSU now has over 900 cases and Pullman made national
headlines for college towns that have the highest per capita numbers. The
total case numbers in Whitman County is currently 1,240.
>From September 6-12 the percentage of those who tested positive in Whitman
County was an alarming 19 percent. The UI positivity rate has now climbed
to 4.7 percent, just under the 5 percent that the CDC recommends for safe
Following national trends, the largest group of new infections for Whitman
and Latah County is people from 18-29. There has been a rapid rise of cases
in Latah County—from 25 July 2 to 410 on September 25. All but two of the
most recent cases 31 cases were 18-29 years-old.
*Excellent Virus Positivity Rate at BSU*
ISU has reported 80 cases, which is 8 percent of Bannock County’s 995. (No
positivity rate was available.) With about double the number of students,
Boise State University has 167 cases with an excellent 1.14 percent
positivity rate. This shows that there has been enough testing to validate
good progress on controlling the virus.
BSU-AFT President Tedd McDonald emailed me that currently about half of the
institution’s classes are now taught on-line, but the UI administration has
not been so flexible. UI-AFT President Dale Graden reported that about 150
faculty have asked to teach solely on-line, but their requests were
BSU’s McDonald was pleased that the administration was so inclusive in
consulting faculty and staff. My research shows that this has generally
been the case across the nation. One headline asked: “Will COVID Bring
Power Back to the Faculty”?
*SUNY Faculty Union Guaranties Safe Campuses*
The United University Professionals (AFT), the largest faculty union in the
nation, represents faculty and professional staff at the 29-campus State
University of New York. The union has just reached an agreement with its
administration on a comprehensive virus testing program.
The AFT’s detailed “Plan to Safely Reopen Schools and Communities” is being
used in school districts nation-wide. If the Trump administration had
controlled the virus as other countries have, then our students, our
workers, and our economy would be in far better shape.
Nick Gier is professor emeritus at the University of Idaho. He was
president of the Higher Education Council of the Idaho Federation of
Teachers from 2004 to 2020. Read his other columns on the virus at
http://nfgier.com (search “coronavirus”). Read his columns on higher
education at webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/HighEdColumns.htm*.* Email him at
ngier006 at gmail.com.
A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they
shall never sit in.
“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance
from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in
lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without
guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own
understand-ing!—that is the motto of enlightenment.
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