Colleges and universities that reopened for face-to-face instruction might have caused tens of thousands of additional cases of Covid-19 in recent weeks, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Indiana University, the University of Washington and Davidson College.
The researchers estimated that an extra 3,200 cases a day occurred in the U.S. that likely wouldn’t have happened had schools kept classes online.
The team behind the report, slated to be posted online Tuesday on the preprint server medRxiv, included professors of epidemiology, health economics and higher education. The manuscript has yet to be peer-reviewed.
Sen Pei, an infectious-disease modeler and associate research scientist at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, called the study “well-designed.” Dr. Pei wasn’t involved in the research.
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To determine whether college reopenings influenced case counts in the larger community, the researchers used cellphone GPS tracking data to look at the movements of people—including an influx of students—and calculated the infection rates of the surrounding county from mid-July to mid-September, before and after students showed up.
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