Colleges Across the Country See COVID-19 Outbreaks as Classes Start
- 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)
Survey and Census Data Shows Record Number of Americans are Struggling Financially
Americans are choosing not to pursue medical treatment more and more frequently as they encounter money troubles.
A recent federal survey shows that a record number of Americans were worse off financially in 2022 than a year prior.
Coupled with recent census data showing pervasive poverty across much of the country, Americans are forced to make difficult decisions, like foregoing expensive healthcare.
According to a recent Federal Reserve Bureau survey, 35% of adults say they were worse off in 2022 than 2021, which is the highest share ever recorded since the question was raised in 2014.
Additionally, half of adults reported their budget was majorly affected by rising prices across the country, and that number is even higher among minority communities and parents living with their children.
According to recent census data, more than 10% of the counties in the U.S. are experiencing persistent poverty, meaning the area has had a poverty rate of 20% or higher between 1989 and 2019.
16 states report at least 10% of their population living in persistent poverty. But most of the suffering counties were found in the South — which accounts for over half the people living in persistent poverty, despite making up less than 40% of the population.
These financial realities have placed many Americans in the unfortunate situation of choosing between medical treatment and survival. The Federal Reserve study found that the share of Americans who skipped medical treatment because of the cost has drastically increased since 2020.
The reflection of this can be found in the overall health of households in different income brackets. 75% of households with an income of $25,000 or less report being in good health – compared to the 91% of households with $100,000 or more income.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (Federal Reserve)
Montana Governor Signs TikTok Ban
The ban will likely face legal challenges before it is officially enacted next year.
First Statewide Ban of TikTok
Montana became the first state to ban TikTok on Wednesday after Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation aimed at protecting “Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.”
The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, though the law will likely face a handful of legal challenges before that date.
Under the law, citizens of the state will not be held liable for using the app, but companies that offer the app on their platforms, like Apple and Google, will face a $10,000 fine per day of violations. TikTok would also be subject to the hefty daily fine.
Questions remain about how tech companies will practically enforce this law. During a hearing earlier this year, a representative from TechNet said that these platforms don’t have the ability to “geofence” apps by state.
Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, told the Associated Press that app stores could have the capability to enforce the restriction, but it would be difficult to carry out and there would be a variety of loopholes by tools like VPNs.
Montana’s law comes as U.S. politicians have taken aim at TikTok over its alleged ties to the CCP. Earlier this year, the White House directed federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. Conservatives, in particular, have been increasingly working to restrict the app.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gov. Gianforte said in a Wednesday statement.
Criticism of Montana Law
TikTok, however, has repeatedly denied that it gives user data to the government. The company released a statement claiming Montana’s law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people” in the state.
“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” the company said.
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned Montana’s law for similar reasons.
“This law tramples on our free speech rights under the guise of national security and lays the groundwork for excessive government control over the internet,” the ACLU tweeted. “Elected officials do not have the right to selectively censor entire social media apps based on their country of origin.”
Per the AP, there are 200,000 TikTok users in Montana, and another 6,000 businesses use the platform as well. Lawsuits are expected to be filed against the law in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Fast Company) (CBS News)
How a Disney-Loving Former Youth Pastor Landed on The FBI’s “Most Wanted” List
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Chris Burns’ 19-year-old son pleaded to his father via The Daily Beast.
Multi-Million Dollar Scheme
Former youth pastor turned financial advisor Chris Burns remains at large since going on the run in September of 2020 to avoid a Securities Exchange Commission investigation into his businesses.
Despite his fugitive status, the Justice Department recently indicted Burns with several more charges on top of the $12 million default judgment he received from the SEC.
Burns allegedly sold false promissory notes to investors across Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. The SEC claims he told the investors they were participating in a “peer to peer” lending program where businesses that needed capital would borrow money and then repay it with interest as high as 20%. Burns allegedly also reassured investors that the businesses had collateral so the investment was low-risk.
The SEC says that Burns instead took that money for personal use.
Burns began his adult life as a youth pastor back in 2007 before transitioning into financial planning a few years later. By 2017, he launched his own radio show, The Chris Burns Show, which was funded by one of his companies, Dynamic Money – where every week Burns would “unpack how this week’s headlines practically impact your life, wallet, and future,” according to the description. He also frequently appeared on television and online, talking about finances and politics.
The SEC alleges that he used his public appearances to elevate his status as a financial advisor and maximize his reach to investors.
His family told The Daily Beast that he became obsessed with success and he reportedly bought hand-made clothes, a million-dollar lakehouse, a boat, several cars, and took his family on several trips to Disney World. His eldest son and wife said that Burns was paying thousands of dollars a day for VIP tours and once paid for the neighbors to come along.
Then in September 2020, he reportedly told his wife that he was being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission but he told her not to worry.
The day that he was supposed to turn over his business documents to the SEC, he disappeared, telling his wife he was just going to take a trip to North Carolina to tell his parents about the investigation. Then, the car was found abandoned in a parking lot with several cashier’s checks totaling $78,000
FBI’s Most Wanted
The default judgment in the SEC complaint orders Burns, if he’s ever found, to pay $12 million to his victims, as well as over $650,000 in a civil penalty. Additionally, a federal criminal complaint charged him with mail fraud. Burns is currently on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Last week, the Justice Department indicted him on several other charges including 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud.
“Burns is charged for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from clients in an illegal investment fraud scheme,” Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Financial crimes of this nature can cause significant disruptions to the lives of those who are victimized, and the FBI is dedicated to holding these criminals accountable.”
His family maintains that they knew nothing of Burns’ schemes. His wife reportedly returned over $300,000 that he had given to her.
She and their eldest son, who is now 19, told The Daily Beast they just want Burns to turn himself in, take responsibility for his actions, and try to help the people he hurt.
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Burns’ son said in a message to his father via The Daily Beast.