More than 6,600 coronavirus cases can be linked to university campuses across the United States, but Oklahoma colleges have reported relatively few infections, according to data published this week.
Direct comparisons are difficult to make, however, considering how many variables are involved, state officials said. Nationwide, some schools had in-person classes in recent months while others didn’t. Some campuses are urban, others rural. And some have systematically tracked COVID cases among students while others haven’t.
Oklahoma campuses have reported at least 48 cases since the pandemic began, according to a New York Times survey of more than 270 colleges coast to coast. The University of Oklahoma has reported the most cases in the state with 18, followed by Oklahoma State University with 14 and the University of Central Oklahoma with 13.
Nationally, the hardest hit campuses include the University of Texas with 449 cases, Texas A&M with 302, the University of Georgia with 390 and the University of Central Florida with 438, according to the Times.
The Times linked at least 14 COVID-related deaths to colleges across the country.
“As the New York Times article highlights, there is no national standard for reporting cases from U.S. universities,” said OU spokeswoman Kesha Keith. “OU has very few students on campus currently as the university transitioned to online education, reducing the number of students, faculty and staff on campus in March.”
OU’s Goddard Health Center provides COVID testing for the Norman campus and reports all positive results to the Cleveland County Health Department, Keith said. But that doesn’t account for students who get tested elsewhere.
“They have many testing options locally, nationally and internationally — based on our diverse student population,” she said.
Tracking will become more systematic on Oklahoma campuses as students return for the fall semester, officials said. And each campus will implement its own plan to minimize the risk of spreading the disease, with common measures including mandatory masks, reduced seating capacity in classrooms and social distancing in public areas.
“We are cautiously optimistic,” said Chris Barlow, senior director for OSU’s Health, Counseling & Accessibility Services. “In the end, it will require all of us to adhere to recommended health guidelines to combat the spread of COVID-19.”
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