By Maria Caspani
(Reuters) – More U.S. colleges were grappling with high numbers of students testing positive for the coronavirus just days into the start of the fall semester after some universities rolled back their campus reopening plans in recent weeks.
The University of Alabama on Monday reported more than 550 people across its campuses had tested positive for COVID-19 since it resumed in-person classes on August 19. Most of those infected were students, faculty and staff at the university’s main campus in Tuscaloosa.
Citing a “dramatic increase” in coronavirus cases on campus, the mayor of Tuscaloosa issued an executive order on Monday ordering bars to shut down for 14 days and placing restrictions on other establishments.
“Many students who tested positive for COVID-19 have chosen to go home to isolate,” Kellee Reinhart, the university’s vice chancellor for communications, told Reuters in an email.
Reinhart said the school had an “ample amount” of space for COVID-19 positive students to isolate and that it was enhancing testing of various groups.
The university has conducted more than 46,000 tests, according to a dashboard it released this week, and the positivity rate stood at about 1%. The number of positive cases does not include the 400 students who tested positive upon returning to University of Alabama campuses before classes began last week.
Alabama is not alone in scrambling to deal with COVID-19 college outbreaks.
The University of Southern California (USC), which resumed education almost entirely online on August 17, on Monday said that more than 100 students at the University Park Campus in Los Angeles were in a 14-day quarantine after exposure to the virus.
“USC Student Health has received an alarming increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in students in the University Park Campus community,” the university said in a statement, adding that all cases were related to students in “off-campus living environments.”
Ohio State University, where classes resume on Tuesday, this week issued more than 200 interim suspensions for students following a string of large parties where health and safety rules were largely ignored, according to media reports.
Last week, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill canceled in-class instruction after positive cases of COVID-19 shot up dramatically.
Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Bill Berkrot