NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – As college students and professors return to campus in the midst of a pandemic, coronavirus cases are turning up by the thousands.
A New York Times survey of more than 1,500 American colleges and universities – including every four-year public institution, every private college that competes in NCAA sports and others that identified cases – has revealed at least 26,000 cases and 64 deaths since the pandemic began.
Many colleges have reported major spikes in recent weeks as dorms have reopened and classes have started.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sent most undergraduates home after clusters popped up in campus housing.
Notre Dame delayed in-person classes as students tested positive by the dozens, then the hundreds.
Clemson, Baylor, Louisville and dozens of other Division I universities reported cases in their athletic departments.
And at Iowa State, aggressive testing of students moving into dorms turned up scores of cases.
Because colleges report data differently, and because cases continued to emerge even in the months when most campuses were closed, The Times is counting all reported cases since the start of the pandemic.
With no national tracking system, colleges are making their own rules for how to tally cases.
While this is believed to be the most comprehensive survey available, it is also an undercount.
Among the colleges contacted by The Times, many published case information online or responded to requests for case numbers, but at least 600 others ignored inquiries or refused to answer questions.
More than 150 have reported zero cases.
Given the disparities in size and transparency among universities, this data should not be used to make campus-to-campus comparisons.
Some colleges remove people from their tallies once they recover. Some only report tests performed on campus. And some initially provided data but then stopped.