- As colleges across the country bring students back to campus, many are seeing increased COVID-19 case counts. At the University of Alabama, 531 students and staff tested positive after the first week of classes.
- Other schools like the University of Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill switched their plans after seeing hundreds of cases. Notre Dame will be holding classes online temporarily, while UNC moved the rest of their semester to remote instruction.
- Schools are also working out how to stop students from partying, one of the most sure-fire ways to spread coronavirus on college campuses. Both Marist College and Syracuse University in New York have each suspended over a dozen students for attending parties that violated the school’s safety guidelines.
Over 500 Cases at the University of Alabama
As classes resume for colleges across the country, many are grappling with massive coronavirus case spikes on and off of their campuses.
On Monday, the University of Alabama published a COVID-19 dashboard showing that the school has had 531 confirmed cases on its main campus since classes began on August 19. There were an additional 35 cases between two other campuses and a university lab.
These figures do not even include student entry COVID-19 tests, which were taken before August 19. Those resulted in 310 positive cases on the main campus and 90 on two others. Right now, roughly 20% of the isolation space at the school is occupied.
The school has not yet announced any plans to pivot to entirely remote learning or to ask students to leave campus.
“A question we all want to know is are we at the breaking point? What’s the lever that’s going to cause us to have to change it?” University of Alabama President Stuart Bell said speaking on Monday morning. “Basically, I think it goes back to flattening this curve, so we are able to accommodate our current operations and make sure we are able to keep the students healthy. So, there really is no single answer.”
Bell also emphasized that the school’s primary challenge is the virus, not the students.
“What we have to do is identify where does the virus thrive and where does the virus spread and how can we work together with our students, with our faculty and with our staff to make sure that we minimize those places,” he said.
Still, the Mayor of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the University of Alabama is located, closed bars for two weeks in order to prevent spread among students. That choice was applauded by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who said she hopes this is just a “brief pause on their plans to reopen.”
Cases at Other Schools
Another major Alabama school, Auburn University, has also seen an outbreak. Their COVID-19 data shows that 207 students and staff tested positive in the first week of classes.
This issue also reaches far beyond the state of Alabama. The University of Notre Dame in Illinois announced last week that it will temporarily move to online classes to slow spread on its campus. When they made that announcement, the campus had just shy of 150 cases. As of Tuesday, the school has well over 400.
Last week the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill opted to move the rest of its fall semester to online learning after there were 135 cases at the school. Since their announcement, 505 more students have tested positive for the virus. The school has a 32.3% positivity rate.
The University of Southern California said the school has 43 cases, 14 of which are from asymptomatic population testing, and 29 of which are from symptomatic testing and contact tracing. At least 100 students at the school are also quarantining as a result.
While these numbers are not as big as other schools, it is still a surprising figure because when USC resumed classes on August 17, the majority of their undergraduate instruction was done online and there is limited access to the campus. All of these cases came from students living in off-campus housing. According to the Los Angeles Times, there have been reports of parties and gatherings in those houses and apartments.
Parties have been a major concern for colleges that have opted to reopen. Syracuse University in upstate New York suspended 23 students after a large party was held on the school’s quad. Marist College, also in New York state, suspended 15 students for failing to follow social distancing guidelines at a party. Numerous other schools around the country have also said that students found breaking COVID-19 safety rules could be suspended or expelled.
See what others are saying: (AL.com) (Los Angeles Times) (South Bend Tribune)
Florida School Says Students Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Must Stay Home for 30 Days
The school falsely claimed that people who have just been vaccinated risk “shedding” the coronavirus and could infect others.
Centner Academy Vaccination Policy
A private school in Florida is now requiring all students who get vaccinated against COVID-19 to quarantine for 30 days before returning to class.
According to the local Miami outlet WSVN, Centner Academy wrote a letter to parents last week describing COVID vaccines as “experimental” and citing anti-vaccine misinformation.
“If you are considering the vaccine for your Centner Academy student(s), we ask that you hold off until the Summer when there will be time for the potential transmission or shedding onto others to decrease,” the letter reportedly stated.
“Because of the potential impact on other students and our school community, vaccinated students will need to stay at home for 30 days post-vaccination for each dose and booster they receive and may return to school after 30 days as long as the student is healthy and symptom-free.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has debunked the false claim that those newly vaccinated against COVID-19 can “shed” the virus.
According to the agency’s COVID myths page, vaccine shedding “can only occur when a vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus,” but “none of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.”
In fact, early research has suggested that vaccinated people are less likely to spread the virus than unvaccinated people.
Beyond that, unvaccinated people are more likely to spread COVID in general because they are much more likely to get the virus than vaccinated people. According to recently published CDC data, as of August, unvaccinated people were six times more likely to get COVID than vaccinated people and 11 times more likely to die from the virus.
Centner Academy Continues Spread of Misinformation
In a statement to The Washington Post Monday, Centner Academy co-founder David Centner doubled down on the school’s new policy, which he described as a “precautionary measure” based on “numerous anecdotal cases that have been in circulation.”
“The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community,” he added.
The new rule echoes similar efforts Centner Academy has made that run counter to public health guidance and scientific knowledge.
In April, the school made headlines when its leadership told vaccinated school employees that they were not allowed to be in contact with any students “until more information is known” and encouraged employees to wait until summer to get the jab.
According to The New York Times, the following week, a math and science teacher allegedly told students not to hug their vaccinated parents for more than five seconds.
The outlet also reported that the school’s other co-founder, Leila Centner, discouraged masking, but when state health officials came for routine inspections, teachers said they were directed in a WhatsApp group to put masks on.
See what others are saying: (WSVN) (The Washington Post) (Business Insider)
Katie Couric Says She Edited Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quote About Athletes Kneeling During National Anthem
Couric said she omitted part of a 2016 interview in order to “protect” the justice.
Kate Couric Edited Quote From Justice Ginsburg
In her upcoming book, journalist Katie Couric admitted to editing a quote from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2016 in order to “protect” Ginsberg from potential criticism.
Couric interviewed the late justice for an article in Yahoo News. During their discussion, she asked Ginsburg about her thoughts on athletes like Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem to protest racial inequality.
“I think it’s really dumb of them,” Ginsburg is quoted saying in the piece. “Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”
According to The Daily Mail and The New York Post, which obtained advance copies of Couric’s book “Going There,” there was more to Ginsburg’s response. Couric wrote that she omitted a portion where Ginsburg said the form of protest showed a “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life…Which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from.“
Couric Says She Lost Sleep Making Choice
“As they became older they realize that this was youthful folly,” Ginsberg reportedly continued. “And that’s why education is important.“
According to The Daily Mail, Couric wrote that the Supreme Court’s head of public affairs sent an email asking to remove comments about kneeling because Ginsburg had misspoken. Couric reportedly added that she felt a need to “protect” the justice, thinking she may not have understood the question. Couric reached out to her friend, New York Times reporter David Brooks, regarding the matter and he allegedly likewise believed she may have been confused by the subject.
Couric also wrote that she was a “big RBG fan” and felt her comments were “unworthy of a crusader for equality.” Because she knew the remarks could land Ginsburg in hot water, she said she “lost a lot of sleep” and felt “conflicted” about whether or not to edit them out.
Couric was trending on Twitter Wednesday and Thursday as people questioned the ethics behind her choice to ultimately cut part of the quote. Some thought the move showed a lack of journalistic integrity while others thought revealing the story now harmed Ginsburg’s legacy.
See what others are saying: (New York Post) (The Daily Mail) (Insider)
Biden Administration Orders ICE To Halt Workplace Raids
The Department of Homeland Security will now focus on targeting employers who exploit undocumented workers, instead of carrying out raids that dissuade those workers from reporting labor violations.
DHS Reverses Worksite Raid Policy
The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it was ordering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop workplace raids.
The move marks a reversal from Trump administration policies that have been strongly criticized by immigration activists who argue the efforts created fear in immigrant communities and dissuaded them from reporting labor violations or exploitative employment practices.
In addition to stopping the raids, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a memo that the administration will refocus enforcement efforts to instead target “employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities or impose unsafe working conditions.”
Mayorkas added that the immigration agencies housed in DHS will have the next 60 days to identify harmful existing policies and come up with new ones that provide better deportation protections for workers who report their employers.
In the Tuesday memo, the secretary argued that shift of focus will “reduce the demand for illegal employment by delivering more severe consequences to exploitative employers” and “increase the willingness of workers to report violations of law by exploitative employers and cooperate in employment and labor standards investigation.”
Labor Market Implications
The new policy comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing a critical labor shortage, including in many sectors that rely on immigrant labor.
Some companies that use undocumented workers pay them wages that are far below the market rate, which is not only exploitative but also undercuts competitors.
According to Mayorkas, the pivot to employer-based enforcement will help protect American businesses.
“By exploiting undocumented workers and paying them substandard wages, the unscrupulous employers create an unfair labor market,” he said in the memo. “They also unfairly drive down their costs and disadvantage their business competitors who abide by the law.”
It is currently unclear how effective the new efforts will be, but historical precedent does not paint an optimistic picture.
The Biden administration’s efforts closely mirror a similar move by the Obama administration, which attempted to reverse workplace raids authorized under President George W. Bush by targetting those who employ undocumented workers rather than the workers themselves.
That effort, however, still led to thousands of undocumented workers being fired.