Credit: Our World In Data.

University openings lead to spike in COVID-19 cases

In past years, when students would flood back into their university’s campus in the fall, there was almost a tangible energy in the air: Friends being reunited after months apart, favorite bars and local restaurants filled with chattering students and the library coming to life with study groups and students bustling through before their next class.

This year the energy is different, and it is important to acknowledge that. Everything is different. Many students are expressing frustration with the university for limiting the sizes of social gatherings, switching the way classes are run and many other procedural changes under COVID-19. Incoming students are feeling let down, freshman aren’t starting with an ideal college experience and upperclassmen are missing the normal flow of social life and day-to-day activities.

Though the situation may be frustrating, administration put the protocols in place with the safety of the students in mind. Oklahoma State University is clocking in at a whopping 410 cases, with University of Oklahoma behind them at 173, according to the New York Times. While the University of Tulsa is not nearly as big as our state school neighbors, our size is likely a blessing in disguise. It is easier for the university to have more strict protocols when there are fewer students to hold accountable. Tracking has also been an issue for students. Some universities do not provide information to their students about cases unless the student has been in contact with someone who has tested positive. After a student has had an interaction with a positive case, students are told to self-isolate and quarantine. Linzie Hopkins, a senior at the University of Tulsa says, “I would not feel safer at a state school because the scale is so much larger. TU is more manageable because there are fewer students.”

While colleges in Oklahoma might not be getting a gold star for their COVID-19 statistics, there are many schools in other states that have generated some concern. Over 51,000 total cases and at least 60 deaths have been reported by colleges. The New York Times reports that Texas A&M is accountable for 752 cases among it’s student population, University of Alabama with 1,367 and Auburn with 1,074 cases. Hotspots are popping up in just about every college town, which makes it quick and easy to blame the college students. With the drastic increase in these town and university populations, wouldn’t outbreaks be inevitable regardless of age?

Managing college life when there is not a pandemic is already challenging enough. Now take into account that there is less face-to-face time with professors and classmates, little to no socialization taking place in dining halls and the opportunity to have a roommate to console in is almost nonexistent. All of Hopkins’ classes are now online, which she says is frustrating. But Hopkins did say that she appreciates, “not feeling the pressure of being around others at this point.”

Hopkins continues, “It is frustrating because I appreciate the opportunity to be on campus, but feel like college students are being targeted for a situation way beyond our control. I fear the instability of feeling like my life can be uprooted at any moment, which is a burden that does make me anxious and worried.”

While the University of Tulsa is doing as much as they can to prevent breakouts, it is important that the students follow the guidelines. “I think TU is right for placing heavy guidelines,” Hopkins says, “though there is always going to be an assumed risk when campus is opened up for the public again.” Let’s all do our part so we can stay healthy, stay safe, and get to enjoy this beautiful campus.

Post Author: Maggy Crawford