Many colleges that have been tentatively reopening for the fall are already seeing huge spikes in COVID cases. Clusters of cases around some universities have several reassessing their reopening plans.
Experts warned during the summer that a failure to the contain the virus would make reopening schools in the fall a tall order. Now, despite many politicians pushing for reopenings, the high case numbers have made such moves a dangerous proposition.
Without a widespread testing and tracing program, or the willingness to enact another lengthy national lockdown, the US stands little chance of actually beating the virus back. Countries like New Zealand, South Korea and China have had success with aggressive quarantine strategies. On Tuesday, there was a massive pool party in Wuhan, China, the origin point for the virus, celebrating the lack of recent community infections.
Many universities called students back to campus for the fall for a simple reason: so they could charge full tuition. Higher education is a big business in the US, and colleges seemed hesitant to leave tuition money on the table. Rather than charge less for online classes, many took the step of simply holding in-person classes amidst a pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, college kids are natural virus spreaders. Kids coming back to campus from around the country and then congregating in communal living spaces tend to exchange germs. At fraternity parties and simple after-class hangouts, many kids are likely to catch and carry the disease. For the time being, it appears the US is going to be struggling with COVID for the foreseeable future.
The US is an unusual case on the world stage. Each of the 50 states in the US has its own protocols and strategy to handle the pandemic. Unlike most other countries that took swift, top-down action against the virus, the federal government here was sluggish to address it. There has never been a country-wide mask mandate. The US has no official testing and tracing protocol.
This has been a huge detriment for the entire US. While some regions have beaten the virus down to lower transmission rates, others still see COVID spreading out of control. In Georgia and Florida, where the governors pushed for a quick reopening, new case numbers are the highest in the nation. Without immediate, painful lockdown efforts, the US may just be dealing with the virus for years to come.