The New York Times - USA (2020-10-16)

(Antfer) #1


Tracking an OutbreakFall Semester

US” were written in sticky
notes on the windows of a
dorm at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, as a
soundtrack from “The Purge”
movies — a series of dystopi-
an horror films — boomed
from an upper floor.
Freshmen in pajamas and
masks darted up and down
sidewalks in driving rain,
hauling bags of groceries and
bottles of alcohol. Frazzled
parents waited in minivans as
their children dragged belong-
ings outside to evacuate.
The chaos erupted last
month when the university
announced a lockdown of two
large residence halls, each
home to more than 1,
students, after local officials
demanded action amid soar-
ing coronavirus caseloads.
Students were told that
they could not leave the build-
ing, for any reason, for two
weeks — and that those who
did would not be allowed back
during the quarantine. So
they either prepared to hun-
ker down, or fled to their
bedrooms back home.
Wisconsin is among a hand-
ful of American universities
driven by rising infections to
try a drastic remedy: asking
large numbers of students —
sometimes the entire campus
— to quarantine for 14 days in
their dorms, apartments or
fraternity and sorority houses.
American colleges have
become a major source of
coronavirus infections in
recent weeks. A New York
Times tracking effort, updated
last week, has identified more
than 178,000 confirmed cases
at colleges and universities
since the pandemic began.
Most have been announced
since students returned to
campus for the fall term.
To find out what life is re-
ally like at colleges that tried
to squelch socializing and
slow the virus’s spread, we
enlisted journalists from five
schools to tell the story.






‘We need everyone to do their part’


TUCSON, Ariz. — When some
45,000 students returned to
the University of Arizona in
late August, officials were
clear that it was conditional on
compliance: We would have to
wear masks in buildings,
follow social-distancing re-
quirements and use the hand
sanitizer you can find every-
where on campus.
Each week, our president,
Robert C. Robbins, gave a
news conference, imploring
students to follow the rules.
I’m here to report: It didn’t
After nearly 600 students
tested positive the week of
Sept. 6, Dr. Robbins announced
a “last-ditch effort” to stem the
outbreak: a two-week shelter-
in-place recommendation.

“We need everyone to do
their part,” Dr. Robbins said.
Personally, I didn’t go out
much during the 14-day peri-
od. My busy workload kept me
holed up in my apartment,
taking online classes and
working on the campus news-
paper. But for others, life
didn’t immediately change.
I live off Fourth Avenue, a
busy street filled with bars
and restaurants near the
western edge of campus. On
the first weekend after the
shelter-in-place request, it
looked normal — or at least as
normal as it can when people
are out eating and drinking
during a pandemic.
Closer to campus, Univer-
sity Boulevard was also open
and running. If an out-of-

towner had walked past Gen-
tle Ben’s Brewing or Illegal
Pete’s, two University of
Arizona institutions, they
wouldn’t have guessed every-
one was supposed to be stay-
ing home.Dr. Robbins prom-
ised “drastic changes” would
occur if things didn’t improve,
and they have: Over the past
10 days, the university has
reported 42 new positive
tests, far below last month’s
I’m hoping that means we’ll
never have to find out what
“drastic changes” he had in

The Daily Wildcat is an inde-
pendent news organization
serving the University of Ari-
zona since 1899.

‘Nobody is wearing a mask’


ALLENDALE, Mich. — Life
has been very different on the
two campuses of Grand Valley
State University this fall.
Those of us who live in
Allendale, Mich., home to
about 14,500 students this
semester, spent two weeks
under a stay-in-place order
issued on Sept. 16. It came
after the school reported one
of the largest-known campus
outbreaks in Michigan, with
more than 400 confirmed
We weren’t supposed to
leave home — except to go to
work, to attend classes or
religious services, or to obtain
medical care, groceries or
other necessities. The order
kept things a bit quieter than
usual, but many students
seemed oblivious.
“I think if they’re already
partying, they’re not really
going to stop,” said Amelia
Goetzinger, 21, a junior mathe-
matics major.
Twelve miles away, on the
downtown Grand Rapids
campus in neighboring Kent
County, some 7,700 students
were unaffected by the order,
although they’re expected to
abide by the normal public
health restrictions already

in place.
To find out how things were
different on the downtown
campus, I spoke with Michael
Vazquez, 21, a senior history
major who lives in Grand
Rapids. People there, he said,
appeared to be taking the
rules more seriously.
“In Kent County, you can’t
go anywhere or do anything
without a mask,” he told me.
But when he comes to Al-
lendale for his only in-person
class, he said, “Nobody is
wearing a mask other than
me. It’s a little frustrating.”
Throughout the two weeks
that the order was in place, I
did my best to comply. But at
night I could see and hear
scattered groups of students
moving between houses, with
some still wandering the
community maskless.
By following the rules, I
missed the chance to celebrate
my roommate’s birthday with
friends, and I missed seeing
my girlfriend. Two weeks?
Felt like an eternity.

The Lanthorn has served the
Grand Valley State University
community as an independent,
student-run newspaper since its
founding as The Keystone
in 1963.

Climbing caseloads on ‘the Hill’


BOULDER, Colo. — At the
University of Colorado, there’s
sometimes an “us vs. them”
mind-set pitting independent
students against those in
fraternities and sororities.
That tension has been high
this term as University Hill,
known around town as “the
Hill,” has become a hot spot in
more ways than one. Home to
bars and many of the school’s
fraternity and sorority
houses, it’s the place you go to
party, pandemic or not.
But it’s also the place that
helped to drive up the school’s
coronavirus caseloads, lead-
ing Boulder County on Sept.
15 to issue a 14-day quarantine
notice for every Colorado
student. Officials blamed a
major uptick in part on “large
off-campus gatherings, partic-
ularly among sororities, fra-
ternities and other students
living in the Hill neighbor-
Things got even stricter on
Sept. 24, when the county
prohibited anyone between
the ages of 18 and 22 from
Although things have im-
proved enough that some
in-person classes have re-
sumed and small gatherings
are now allowed, I don’t know
a single healthy person who
remained in quarantine.
“I drove past the Hill last
night,” Delaney Hartmann, a
19-year-old sophomore major-
ing in political science, told

me recently, “and there were
tons of people at restaurants,
at the bars, not wearing
Ms. Hartmann said she was
especially vulnerable to the
coronavirus, with conditions
including dysautonomia that
result in chronic pain, fatigue
and nausea.
“I don’t want to blame every
single individual who is living
on the Hill who is in a sorority
or fraternity,” she said. “But it
is definitely a source of a lot of
the outbreaks.”
All of this has added to
long-simmering tension be-
tween Greek students and the
rest of campus. Some frater-
nity and sorority members
“have taken a while to truly
understand” the seriousness
of Covid-19, Harrison Bolin,
president of the Xi chapter of
the Christian fraternity Alpha
Gamma Omega, acknowl-
But Mr. Bolin said it was
unfair to blame Greek stu-
dents alone: “The administra-
tion severely underestimated
their ability to manage tens of
thousands of college students
going through the longest
period of isolation and uncer-
tainty in our lives.”

CU Independent is the online
news site for the University of
Colorado Boulder, with content
produced by students for the
university and surrounding

‘Use the form’


PEORIA, Ill. — Officially, the
form on Bradley University’s
website that allows students to
report violations of the
school’s coronavirus rules is
known as the noncompliance
But we just call it the “snitch
You can report students for
failing to wear a mask, failing
to social distance, failing to
wash their hands for at least
20 seconds, and failing to
cough or sneeze into a tissue
or elbow. There’s even an
option to upload photographic
Ratting one another out
became more tempting as
confirmed cases began rising
quickly at our school of 6,
students in late August. The
test positivity rate soared from
less than 3 percent on Aug. 27
to more than 8 percent a week
later and 14 percent by Sept.
10, according to the campus
Given that steep climb, and
the number of students who
were forced to quarantine
because of contact tracing, the
university ordered a two-
week, all-student quarantine
starting on Sept. 8.
“It is very important stu-
dents stay put,” officials said.
They weren’t kidding. Eight
days into quarantine, the
university had issued 11 $
fines and was considering
whether to ban three students
from campus and suspend one
for the rest of the academic

Noah Mollet, 19, a sopho-
more majoring in theater arts,
said he initially thought that
“it’s their own grave they’re
digging” if students didn’t
follow the rules.
“But it spreads,” he said.
“When people break the rules,
they’re hurting other people
and ruining other people’s
After someone on his floor
tested positive, Mr. Mollet
sought a test for himself — also
positive — and was ordered to
isolate for 10 days in a room
with three other infected stu-
dents. After his new room-
mates invited several people
into the apartment, he re-
ported them.The campus
police showed up, took the
students’ names and made
sure the guests left, he said.
“My roommates were less
than happy,” Mr. Mollett said.
“I was worried they would
hurt me and my stuff.”
The “snitch form” yields a
lot of power, and there’s poten-
tial for abuse, even false re-
ports. But combined with the
quarantine, there’s evidence it
might be working. Bradley’s
test positivity rate reached a
peak of 16 percent on Sept. 17
but has since declined signifi-
cantly.“I can see why people
are scared, but use the form,”
Mr. Mollett said. “It works.”

The Bradley Scout, a student-
run publication, was established
at Bradley University in 1898.

‘Do I have enough to eat?’


MADISON, Wis. — Everyone
seemed to know it was com-
It was only our second week
of classes, but coronavirus
caseloads at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison were
climbing quickly. Local offi-
cials wanted action after 46
separate outbreaks and nearly
1,000 positive cases.
In a letter to administrators
on Sept. 9, Joe Parisi, the Dane
County executive, called for
students to be sent home. The
campus started to worry about
a quarantine.
“I was going into my very
first college exam,” said Noah
Cotton, 18, a freshman who
lived in a dorm with a major
outbreak. Instead of focusing
on his answers, he wondered:
“Do I have enough to eat?
How am I going to be able to
talk to people?”
That night, students began
to panic. Everyone bought
groceries and alcohol.
At 8:20 p.m., a university
email made it official: Two
dorms, Sellery and Witte,
home to 2,200 students, would
be quarantined for two weeks
starting at 10 p.m. “Residents
of those halls will be required
to remain in their hall during
that time or go home,” the
announcement said. The uni-
versity shifted classes online,
and gatherings of more than 10
people were prohibited.
That’s when I saw the
US” sticky notes on the win-

dows of Sellery and heard the
music from “The Purge” boom-
ing from an open dorm window.
Mr. Cotton would later test
positive. “It was definitely my
floor,” he said. “My roommate
and I tested positive. The
people in the room next to us
tested positive. The people
down the hall tested positive.
It was all of us.”
Many people chose to leave
campus that night. I watched
students hop into Ubers,
bound for hotels.
Mr. Cotton, who is Black,
said he stayed because he
didn’t have much choice.
“Most minority students don’t
have the means to just leave
the dorm, to travel, to get an
apartment, to feel safe,” he
The quarantine seemed to
do its job, and the lockdown
has been lifted. “Due to the
actions the university took to
contain a rise in cases early in
the semester, including robust
testing, isolation of positive
students, and quarantines,
Covid-19 cases have remained
low on campus since the third
week of September,” the uni-
versity’s case-tracking dash-
board said on Wednesday.Ev-
eryone is holding their breath
to see how long it lasts.

The Daily Cardinal is an inde-
pendent, student-run newspa-
per that has served the Univer-
sity of Wisconsin-Madison
community since 1892.

Outside Illegal Pete’s, a University of Arizona institution, on University Boulevard in Tucson.

Grand Valley State University campus in Allendale, Mich.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. The University of Colorado-Boulder.

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